RICHARD AVEDON (1923-2004)
RICHARD AVEDON (1923-2004)
RICHARD AVEDON (1923-2004)
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RICHARD AVEDON (1923-2004)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more
RICHARD AVEDON (1923-2004)

The Beatles, London, August 11, 1967

Details
RICHARD AVEDON (1923-2004)
The Beatles, London, August 11, 1967
each signed and numbered ‘AP 1⁄3’ in ink (in the margins); each signed and numbered ‘AP 1⁄3’ in pencil with copyright credit reproduction limitation, title, date and medium stamped; each with respective negative numbers ‘494' '120A' '295' and '383’ in pencil (on the reverse)
dye transfer prints, in four parts
each image: 21 1⁄2 x 17 1⁄2in. (54.6 x 44.4cm.)
each sheet: 26 x 21 5⁄8in. (66 x 54.9cm.)
Photographed in 1967 and printed in 1990, this portfolio is artist’s proof number one from an edition of six, plus three artist’s proofs
Provenance
The Richard Avedon Foundation.
Gagosian Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2014.
Literature
P. Coffin, 'Art Beat of the '60's: The Beatles' in Look Magazine, vol. 32, no. 1, January 1968, pp. 32-41 (individually illustrated in colour, pp. 33, 34, 39 and 40; John Lennon illustrated in colour on the front cover).
'How the Express usues modern means to get a modern mood...' in Daily Express, no. 21,063, February 1968, pp. 4-5 (illustrated p. 5)
'De Beatles' in Stern Magazine, 1968 (John Lennon illustrated in colour on the front cover).
R. Avedon, Evidence 1944-1994 Richard Avedon, New York 1994 (front cover of Look Magazine illustrated in colour, p. 151).
R. Avedon and D. Arbus, The Sixties, New York 1999 (individually illustrated in colour, pp. 27, 28, 31 and 33; John Lennon illustrated on the front cover).
R. Avedon, M. Nichols, A. Gregory, J. Lahr, T. Tharp and M. Uchida, PerForMancE: Richard Avedo, New York 2008 (illustrated in colour, pp. 250-251).



Special notice

This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Auction

Lot Essay

On 11 August 1967, at a penthouse studio in Thompson House, 200 Gray’s Inn Road, London, the American photographer Richard Avedon captured what would become some of the most iconic images in music history. The Beatles’ seminal album Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band had been released three months earlier. The band posed for Avedon like saints bearing their attributes: Ringo Starr holding a dove, Paul McCartney with a sprig of blossom, George Harrison raising a messianic hand, and John Lennon in nothing but his trademark round spectacles. Selecting four negatives from the shoot, Avedon enlarged, solarised, and rephotographed them with transparency film. The transparencies were then solarised in the processing. Rendered in kaleidoscopic blues, greens, oranges, purples and yellows, the Beatles were made dazzling deities for the hippie generation, with each given his own visual identity. Debuted in Look magazine in January 1968, poster versions of the portraits soon decorated thousands of bedroom walls throughout the world, becoming emblems of a seismic shift in Western culture.

The present portfolio is the first of three artist’s proofs aside from an edition of six, with each tonal value given a pure colour to match the 1968 engraving. They were printed by hand in 1990 using the rare and painstaking dye transfer process, in which three carefully-aligned layers of cyan, magenta, and yellow are applied sequentially to one emulsion layer. This method allows the photographer unrivalled control over the final colour balance, and offers exceptional stability over time.

The Fab Four’s symbolic trappings—Starr’s dove for peace, McCartney’s ‘flower power’, Lennon’s hallucinogenic glasses and Harrison’s tribute to Eastern mysticism—succinctly pictured aspects of the countercultural movement that blazed through the late 1960s. During 1967’s Summer of Love, as many as 100,000 young people gathered in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood of San Francisco, broadly united by their rejection of consumerist values, opposition to the Vietnam War, and interest in spiritual practices. Their soundtrack was Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. With its psychedelic themes and innovative, reverb-heavy production, the record represented a mind-altering new direction for the Beatles, who had retreated to the studio after years of intense touring and the initial heights of ‘Beatlemania’. Released to thunderous acclaim, it cemented the group at the forefront of the popular consciousness. ‘The psychic shiver which Sgt. Pepper sent through the world’, writes music critic Ian MacDonald, ‘was nothing less than a cinematic dissolve from one Zeitgeist to another … If such a thing as a cultural “contact high” is possible, it happened here’ (I. MacDonald, Revolution in the Head: The Beatles Records and the Sixties, 3rd ed., Chicago 2007, pp. 249-50).

Richard Avedon was a giant of photography. Typically using a white studio background and large-format camera, he isolated his subjects both graphically and psychologically—a stripped-back style capable of huge emotional range. By the 1960s, having made his name over more than two decades working for Harpers Bazaar and Vogue, his work went far beyond high fashion. Deeply attuned to the social currents of his time, he shot not only models and celebrities but also civil rights workers, poets, politicians and cultural dissidents in his studio. 1962 saw his first museum retrospective at the Smithsonian Institution, for which he installed overlapping prints over every inch of the walls. The 1964 book Nothing Personal assembled a number of gravure-printed portraits alongside a text by his former classmate James Baldwin, forming a searing document of a tumultuous period in American life. A famously demanding technician, Avedon took his medium to ambitious new formal frontiers with mural-sized, multi-panelled group portraits and surreal, panoramic photo-collages. One of the latter, known colloquially as the ‘Mount Rushmore’ portrait, was made from the same Beatles shoot as the present work.

Avedon’s subversive images of fame had much in common with the Pop innovations of Andy Warhol, whose serial, chromatically vivid screenprints find a particularly close echo in the Beatles portfolio. Both blurring the boundaries between commercial and fine art, the artists had crossed paths at Harper’s Bazaar in the 1950s, where Warhol would illustrate bags and shoes to accompany Avedon’s fashion essays. They later shared a number of subjects, including Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy; in 1969, Avedon photographed members of the Factory and took stark portraits of Warhol revealing his torso, scarred by an assassination attempt one year earlier. The present work seems to bring their visual languages together, encapsulating the collective explosion of art, celebrity, and music that shaped the Pop era. Indeed, the Beatles were breaking their own new pictorial ground at the same moment. The sleeve for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, designed by the British Pop pioneers Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, is perhaps the best-known album cover of all time; 1968 would see the release of the band’s feature film Yellow Submarine, which remains a landmark in animation. Distilled into a magical, vibrant quartet, The Beatles, London, August 11, 1967 is the quintessential picture of an age defined by aesthetic, social and musical revolution.

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