A painting created by all four members of the Beatles is expected to sell for up to $600,000 at auction in February. The abstract artwork is believed to be the only substantial one of its kind.

“Images of a Woman” was made during the band’s visit to Japan in 1966, where they performed five shows in three days at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo.

As a result of international Beatlemania, the group was confined to their suite in the Tokyo Hilton except for when they performed. They attended just one official press conference, although both John Lennon and Paul McCartney are reported to have sneaked out briefly to go sightseeing.

In a news release, Christie’s auction house reported that a fan shared some art supplies with the hotel-bound Beatles. They placed a piece of paper on a table with a lamp at its center, and each of them worked on his own corner. It was then signed in the center gap by all four, creating another unique element.

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Photographer Robert Whitaker, a member of the tour entourage, said the Beatles worked while listening to tapes of the music that would become their Revolver album. “I never saw them calmer or more contented than at this time,” he added in the release.

Specialist art dealer Casey Rogers argues that the painting “crystallizes a magic moment in Beatles history. It’s such a rarity to have a work on paper outside of their music catalog that is a physical relic. It’s memorabilia; it’s a work of art. It appeals to probably a much larger cross-section of collectors. … It’s a wonderful piece of storytelling.”

The 21-by-31-inch artwork wasn’t given a title at the time but was labeled in the ‘80s when one observer believed they saw female body parts in McCartney’s quarter. “It’s all very much in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?” Rogers said.

“It wasn’t the intention, necessarily, of the painting as it was being done,” Rogers added. “I think it was more fluid; it was more freeform and just the members expressing themselves. It’s really interesting that it’s had other interpretations over time, and probably will carry on having other interpretations.”

Being together so long in one place “gave them a priceless proximity to one another’s ideas and attitudes – and this Tokyo painting is the proof of it,” Christie’s said. “Pictures by Robert Whitaker and other visiting photographers show us that further art pieces were also made here. There was paper, paint and time – so, of course, they did other things as well, and it’s to be hoped that further, smaller treasures might turn up.”

Beatles Painting is 'Positive, Bright, Vivid, Alive'

Whether they do or not, Christie's said “the so-called ‘Images of a Woman’ is the only known substantial piece of art made by the four Beatles in their years together – an extraordinary and unique item that has the best of provenance.”

The image itself contains “shapes of things – squiggles, blobs, circles, squares, protrusions and intrusions,” the news release added. “By colors alone, John’s work vaguely suggests Spain, but one should draw no conclusion from this. John and Paul have used the most black, working mostly in acrylic; George [Harrison] and Ringo [Starr] seem mostly to have used watercolors, but one imagines them all swapping paints around: ‘Gis a go with yer oils.’”

Harrison's area is the “most expansive – he reaches from his corner of the paper to the lamp in the middle and breaks into the neighboring area, where Ringo’s smaller work has a cartoony bent – as if he might have had a firm-ish idea before obscuring it. Overall, the effect is typical of the Beatles: the combination is positive, not negative; it’s bright, vivid, alive.”

“Images of a Woman” was acquired by Tetsusaburo Shimoyama, chairman of the Beatles fan club of Tokyo, after their visit. The painting sold to record store owner Takao Nishino in 1989, was initially auctioned in 2012, and goes under the hammer again on Feb. 1 in New York as Lot 39 in the Exceptional Sale.

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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso

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