October 7, 2004

Things Mimi wouldn't understand.

Yoko Ono (in today's NYT) explains why John Lennon's early drawings were surrealistic, but his later ones realistically depicted domestic life:
"In the beginning, when he was doing the exaggerated stuff - the monster-looking people, and all that - those come from a time when he felt that Mimi was always looking over his shoulder," she said, referring to Mimi Smith, Lennon's aunt, who raised him. "He said that was how he came to surrealism. He would write things in his diary that he wouldn't want Mimi to understand, and the drawings were an extension of that. He was getting into an unreal, illusory world.

"Then when he met me, he felt that reality wasn't that scary anymore, so he began drawing us. And eventually, because he was learning Japanese, his drawings were a reflection of that experience too, but the more prominent change was that he began doing a lot of animals, and that was for Sean."
Oh, I think there is a lot more to surrealism than hiding from Aunt Mimi. Ono also says that in the early days of their relationship, talking about art, Lennon said "I think of myself as Magritte." The fact is, the early surrealistic line drawings are much more interesting. If his surrealism was about hiding from the female authority figure of his early life (Mimi), why should we not view the later realistic domestic scenes as mollifying the female authority figure of his later life (Ono)?

The Times article relates to the "When I'm Sixty-Four" gallery show, the title of which I complained about at some length here. There's a slide show of Lennon's drawings at the first link above.

UPDATE: Here's a link for Magritte, whose work really isn't very much like Lennon's surrealist line drawings. Lennon's work is far more similar to Jean Cocteau's drawings.

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