The 'Psychedelic Eye' Mosaic Commissioned By John Lennon For His Swimming Pool at Auction

Friday, November 17, 2023
The 'Psychedelic Eye' Mosaic Commissioned By John Lennon For His Swimming Pool  at Auction

The 'Psychedelic Eye' Mosaic Commissioned By John Lennon For His Swimming Pool At His Kenwood Home, circa 1965, will be auctioned at Bonhams.

The mosaic created by Joseph [Joe] Ritrovato, a master tiler who, on his own, installed it in John Lennon's swimming pool at Kenwood in Surrey, 1965. The mosaic remained in situ within the swimming pool at Kenwood from 1965 until 1984, when it was removed from the pool wall for preservation by the owners of Kenwood at the time and by the mosaic's joint owners for it to be available for public exhibition. John Lennon owned Kenwood from July 1964 to late spring 1968.

The John Lennon 'Psychedelic Eye' mosaic first went on public display at The International Garden Festival at the Royal Festival Gardens, Liverpool from 1985 until its closure in 1987.  Intended for loan to the Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Liverpool from 1987, but remained at the Festival Gardens site until 2002.

This monumental mosaic, commissioned directly by John Lennon and adorning the deep end wall of his swimming pool at Kenwood, is a striking example of the Beatle's artistic vision and influences. The mosaic was most likely based on one of John's own designs, perhaps one of his cartoons, the original for which has not survived. Intriguingly, John had also designed a pool mosaic for George Harrison in the mid-1960s, an enlarged version of a cartoon from Lennon's In His Own Write. The location of the mosaic meant that it could be seen from outside Kenwood's sunroom, and would have served as an area of calm and respite from the relentless public attention he experienced. The mosaic can be seen in numerous photographs of John next to his pool from this time - please contact the Popular Culture department for further images.

On the 29th June 1967, John was visited at Kenwood by Johnny Dean and Leslie Bryce, the editor and photographer of The Beatles Monthly respectively. John and Julian Lennon were photographed in and around the house, including several beside the swimming pool with the mosaic in the shot. In one image, John, deep in thought, perches alone atop a diving board with the mosaic visible below him, the top that he is seen wearing is believed to be the same one he had worn for the launch of the Sgt Pepper album. In another, John sits with his son Julian outside the sunroom with the pool and its mosaic behind them. The visit ended by the pool where, as Beatles biographer Hunter Davies confirmed, John would spend idle hours in contemplative silence. The lush colours 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.

Referenced in media over the years as either the 'Psychedelic Eye', the 'Magic Eye', or 'The Eye Of Knowledge', the mosaic was also completed two years before John first met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and therefore predates such links to the eastern philosophies explored by members of The Beatles.

Following the mosaic's removal from the pool in 1985 it was preserved for display. The mosaic has been extensively displayed internationally as part of the V&A's 2016 blockbuster museum exhibition exploring Counter-Culture titled 'You Say You Want a Revolution?'. While exhibited at the V&A Museum in London, the eye gazed out over the crowds as they entered the exhibition.

As Kenwood still resides under private ownership, there are few items, if any, surviving from when John Lennon lived there until Spring 1968. The 'Psychedelic Eye' mosaic is therefore an important artefact of Beatles history, a visually arresting artwork commissioned and owned by Lennon during the height of The Beatles' popularity.

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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