On 13th November 2012, Sotheby’s London will offer an image familiar to millions of music fans around the world – Sir Peter Blake‘s original 1967 collage for the insert for The Beatles’ legendary Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – one of the best-selling albums of all time, and a landmark in musical history (one which the critic Kenneth Tynan called “a decisive moment in Western Civilisation”). This rare and highly influential artwork is the centrepiece of 18 works from the Collection of the late architect Colin St John “Sandy” Wilson (1922-2007) which will be offered for sale in Sotheby’s Modern & Post-War British Art Evening Sale. Appearing on the market for the first time, the collage is estimated to realise £50,000-80,000.
James Rawlin, Sotheby’s Senior Specialist, Modern British Paintings, commented: “Sir Peter Blake’s collage is a tangible slice of rock history. Sgt Pepper had a huge impact on the cultural landscape. It was the first concept album, when music, story, image and studio expertise all came together. In this work we witness the creation of the eponymous Sgt Pepper himself, with his familiar accoutrements of moustache and sergeant’s stripes, originally intended for fans to cut out and keep.
Sandy Wilson was not only a celebrated architect, but one of the most important collectors and supporters of British art in the post-1950 period. Over 60 years, he built up a substantial body of significant and historic work and forged relationships with artists that would sustain both parties for years to come. Sotheby’s is honoured to offer for sale this and other landmark works from Wilson’s important Collection – none of which have previously appeared at auction.”
Sgt. Pepper Album Sleeve
It is almost impossible to envisage The Beatles‟ Sgt. Pepper album without its iconic and much referenced artwork, which anticipated and influenced the late 1960s zeitgeist. Peter Blake was invited to collaborate with the band in March 1967, when he was already deeply influenced by folk art, Victoriana and collage. Introduced to The Beatles by his dealer Robert Fraser, he and his wife Jann Haworth, worked closely with Paul McCartney and John Lennon to create the distinctive imagery. While the cover, a photograph, featured The Beatles surrounded by an elaborately constructed set of cut-out figures of famous faces, it was the insert, created as a collage, (and thus, the only remaining tangible artwork) which depicted the celebrated Sergeant himself. Blake and Haworth presented the piece to Wilson‟s wife, MJ Long, shortly after it was commissioned.
Appearing at Auction for the First Time:
Other Highlights from The Wilson Collection:
Roxy Roxy (est. £150,000-250,000) belongs to the significant and highly self-reflexive series of paintings by Blake generally grouped as „wrestlers‟ – featuring a cast of largely invented characters, each complete with a set of attributes and a story. Blake began going to wrestling matches in early youth, accompanied by his aunt and mother; wrestling would go on to become a powerfully resonant and recurring theme in his work. Roxy Roxy may be among the first of the band of female wrestlers which appear in the mid-1960s. Compiled as if by an imaginary maker, who has envisaged the painting as a kind of shrine, Roxy Roxy engages complexly with questions of authorship, myth-making and celebrity.
Patrick Caulfield was in his late twenties when he completed Still Life with Bottle, Glass and Drape (est. £200,000-300,000). It evidences Caulfield‟s highly autonomous artistic pursuit – in which he eschewed the contemporary imagery of his peers for the aesthetic of French Modernist masters such as Juan Gris, Fernand Leger and Le Corbusier. One of Caulfield‟s most austere early works, Still Life exhibits the off-square format found in other works of 1963-4, used to draw out the play and tension of symmetry and asymmetry within the image.
Not only was Wilson a great friend and supporter of Richard Hamilton, but he also built up one of the most significant collections of his work covering all phases of his career. Constantly inventive, Hamilton‟s work often prefigures ideas that would become current amongst his contemporaries, and in Hommage à Chrysler Corps (£70,000-100,000) we see him developing themes that still feel remarkably relevant. Fascinated by the writings of Marcel Duchamp and also increasingly aware of the ways in which we look, see and process ideas, Hamilton had begun to look at advertising imagery. Fusing deliberately non-fine art sources, such as car advertising and its clichés, Hamilton was working towards a very significant critique of pop culture and its connections with established art, something that in 1957 must have appeared incredibly avant-garde.
An early work by Howard Hodgkin, The Visit of 1963, (est. 70,000-100,000) has always resisted classification. Hodgkin describes his works of this period as “representational pictures of emotional situations”. Product of an extended painterly process, The Visit achieves a layered imagery in which subject is progressively obscured under accumulated visual metaphor.
Coming to the market after a quarter of a century, Michael Andrews‟ Cabin: Sketch I (£40,000-60,000) forms part of the artist‟s mid-1970s painting series Lights, which imagines the metaphysical journey of the soul. At each stage of the‟ development of the idea, Andrew‟s paintings form distinct groups of their own with this small but haunting image drawn from a newspaper story. Frank Auerbach said of Andrews, “He paints nothing but masterpieces.”
A nugget small enough to be moulded in the artist‟s hand, Eduoardo Paolozzi‟s Head (No.2 Edition) (est. £15,000 -20,000) was described by Sandy Wilson as „like a hand-grenade, about to go off.‟ At once ancient and modern, Head – assembled from a detritus of civilisation – provides a dystopian yet humanistic vision of a damaged world. It belongs to a visionary series of heads – sculpture, drawing, collage – created by Paolozzi in the 1950s. The series draws on contemporary paintings of Dubuffet and Fautrier as well as looking back to to Giacometti‟s primitive stone heads of the 1920s.
*Estimates do not include buyer‟s premium
AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL.
- More Beatles on this blog.