In 1966, all four members of The Beatles painted a piece in oil and watercolor on Japanese paper, “Images of a Woman,” at the peak of their fame while on tour in Japan. The piece went up for auction Feb. 1 at Christie’s New York in New York City, and sold to a buyer with astounding results, for over $1.7 million, after a lively bidding round. The high-end auction features lavish, upscale art dating back centuries.
The Beatles classic lineup—John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr—all painted a quarter of the piece and signed the painting. Bidding for “Images of a Woman,” 54 cm x 78 cm, began at $400,000-600,000, and the final price the buyer will have to pay is $1,744,000. It’s likely the only painting with work contributed by all four band members. Christie’s posted a 12-photo gallery showing the Fab Four painting it.
The latest event at Christie’s New York is a rock ‘n’ roll collector’s dream: “The Exceptional Sale,” also features priceless art and memorabilia like a gold-colored crocheted vest that was worn by Janis Joplin (bidding started at $50,000), and Elvis Presley’s 1965 guitar made by The Fred Gretsch Manufacturing Company, used during his 1969 Las Vegas, Nevada residency (bidding started at $350,000). David Gahr photographed Joplin wearing the vest on the roof garden of the Chelsea Hotel in 1970. Joplin’s vest eventually ended on the cover of the November 1976 issue of Rolling Stone and was one of her favorites pieces to wear.
High Times learned that bidding for The Beatles painting on Thursday got intense, with about three in the room holding out to the end, among many other bidders that called in. Organizers were pleased with the overall results.
“It was great to see The Beatles topping the charts again with this amazing auction result,” The Head of Christie’s Exceptional Sale, Casey Rogers, told High Times. “There’s nothing like this painting. It’s a work of art. It’s a piece of memorabilia. We told that story, and the market responded with strong competition from bidders in the room and on the phone.”
Keep in mind that The Beatles—defunct for over 50 years—topped the charts months ago in November 2023 with “Now and Then,” a song they finished using a little help from AI.
The event was designed only for serious collectors with money. “The Exceptional Sale” featured everything from an elegant 18th century candelabra to a Wedgwood & Bentley sculpture of the infant Hercules in black basalt. Other notable items date back further. The French and English furniture masterpieces include a pair of tabourets belonging to Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, and a Louis XIV Gobelins tapestry formerly in the collection of William K. Vanderbilt (1849-1920).
‘Images of a Woman’ Tells An Intricate Story
Psychedelics and cannabis have a well-known impact on the music (and art) of The Beatles. Lennon and Harrison, along with their wives, were the first to take LSD in 1965, after being dosed by a dentist. They would become part of the profound impact psychedelics had on Western counterculture and music.
This painting shows how psychedelics impacted their art. The four painted “Images of a Woman” just two months after recording Revolver, perhaps one of their most psychedelic, and most respected albums, taking a 180-degree detour from their early pop era that was based on radio-friendly love songs.
At the time when “Images of a Woman” was painted in 1966, “Beatlemania” was at its peak. The moment the Fab Four stepped off their plane at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan on June 29, 1966, The Beatles used a “moment of calm at a tumultuous time,” to create a piece of abstract art with some of the countless art supplies fans had given them.
While Beatlemania was strong in Japan, so was the politically nationalist Japanese, who saw The Beatles as “emblems of an invasive Western culture,” and completely rejected them, and the band was confined for most of their five-day tour in Japan to the presidential suite at Tokyo’s Hilton Hotel.
They received death threats from Japanese who rejected Western culture and considered the band to be a representation of that. “I’ve never seen so many people guarding us,” drummer Ringo Starr said at the time.
They took a piece of Japanese watercolor paper and put it on a table, then placed a ceramic lamp in the center, where they would sign their names.
Lennon in particular was interested in art. In 1957, young Lennon attended the Liverpool College of Art where he met former Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe. He continued to dabble in art his whole life.
High Times reported on another Beatles-related art piece that has a connection with cannabis. Antiques Roadshow season 46, episode 2, featured a cartoon depicting McCartney being searched for pot by airport customs and with an autograph from the singer.
Christie’s is an auction house founded in 1766 by James Christie. The piece sold at Christie’s New York is probably the most valuable visual art the band has created.