Category Archives: Warhol’s Polaroids

The Cover Design of John Lennon’s “Imagine” Album. Not Warhol after all?

Yesterday I went to a couple of art exhibitions. First I went to Sven-Harry’s to see the excellent Jenny Nyström exhibition and then went on to Bonnier’s gallery to see what was on there. But it’s not the exhibitions that I want to talk about here. To get to the exhibition rooms at the Bonnier’s gallery one has to go through the shop. They usually have loads of interesting books for sale there and yesterday was no exception. I saw Rock Graphics Originals by Peter Golding & Barry Miles with great poster and record cover art and a book Emigre Fonts 1986-2016 cataloguing Emigre Magazines typefaces. I still have two or three copies of Emigre with David Carson’s often confusing fonts.

The third book to catch my eye was Imagine — John Yoko with the famous Imagine album’s cover image on the front. I had not seen the book, published in October 2018, before, so I started rummaging through it to see if Yoko discussed the album’s cover art.

Imagine John Yoko
Yoko Ono’s book “Imagine John Yoko”.

And, on page 419, she goes into explicit detail. She took the Polaroid photos of John and saw a reflection of his face with a cloud in front and photographed that. The album credits list Yoko Ono as designer, too, so I probably should have accepted her word.

However, collectors of Andy Warhol’s record cover art noticed that a couple of Andy Warhol’s Polaroid pictures of John, sold at Christie’s in 2013, looked suspiciously like the photo used on the Imagine album cover and were advertised as “Two unused and previously unseen photographic proofs of artwork for the front cover of John Lennon’s 1971 album Imagine“.

Close examination of the “Warhol” Polaroids, show that John’s mouth appears dfferent from the picture on the album cover. So Christie’s comment of “Unused proofs” might suggest that Warhol’s Polaroids are alternatives to Yoko’s. Could Yoko have shown her Polaroids to Andy Warhol, or perhaps she gave him copies–or did Warhol take his own Polaroids and give them to Yoko?

Should we remove Lennon’s “Imagine” album (and the various singles that use the same picture) from the list of Andy Warhol’s record covers and credit the cover design to Yoko Ono as she claims?