In the mid-’60s, John Lennon commissioned a 17,000-tile Psychedelic Eye mosaic for the deep-end wall of his swimming pool. Later this month, the roughly 15- by 5-foot mural, once a highlight of Lennon’s Kenwood home, will be sold at a Bonhams auction. The piece is predicted to fetch “a six-figure sum,” according to Artnet.
John and Cynthia Lennon acquired their large rustic house in Kenwood, England, for just £20,000 in July 1964, the same summer the Beatles dropped their iconic third studio album, A Hard Day’s Night. Lennon added personal touches to the residence, including the intricate Psychedelic Eye mosaic in the pool. During the time the Lennons lived at Kenwood, the Beatles created some of their most beloved albums, including Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
“Lennon’s Kenwood home was a place of respite from all the public attention he experienced during the height of the Beatles’ popularity,” says Claire Tole-Moir, Bonhams’ head of popular culture in London, in a statement. “It’s said Lennon would spend idle hours near the swimming pool and that the mosaic could even be seen from his favored ‘sunroom’ at the top of the house.”
The musician commissioned artist Joseph Ritrovato, renowned for his tile work, to create the Psychedelic Eye the year after they bought the house. Ritrovato installed the whole thing by hand. The mosaic was likely based on one of Lennon’s own designs—“perhaps one of his cartoons, the original for which has not survived,” according to Designboom’s Christina Petridou.
The work contains various tile shades, including blue, red, white, green and even some reflective mirrored pieces. According to the lot listing, “The lush colors and expressive visual design are a prime example of Lennon’s taste by 1967, as shown by his richly decorated psychedelic piano and Rolls Royce also kept at the time.” The “Imagine” singer also helped create a tile mosaic for fellow Beatle George Harrison’s pool.
The Lennons sold the Kenwood home in 1968 due to their divorce. Sixteen years later, in 1984, the mosaic was removed from the pool for preservation and mounted on six marine plywood backboard panels.
Since then, Lennon’s Psychedelic Eye has appeared in various shows, including the International Garden Festival at the Royal Festival Gardens in Liverpool in 1985 and the popular exhibition on counterculture—“You Say You Want a Revolution?”—at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum in 2016.
“With Kenwood still under private ownership, it is very rare to see anything from when John Lennon lived there, making the Psychedelic Eye mosaic an incredibly important artifact of Beatles history,” says Tole-Moir.
In addition to the Psychedelic Eye, the Bonhams sale will include other artifacts from music legends, including a signed copy of Led Zeppelin II, an original Joy Division poster and Freddie Mercury’s rainbow-colored “arrow” jacket.