Painting which inspired The Beatles' Sgt Pepper album cover sold for over €50,000

A painting that likely inspired The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album was sold last week for over €50,000.
A painting that likely inspired The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album was sold last week for over €50,000.   -   Copyright  JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP   -  
By Giulia Carbonaro  & AP

The painting that reportedly inspired the cover for The Beatles' legendary Sergeant Pepper album has been sold for €52,722 (£45,360) at Sotheby's in London, bringing the artwork back to public attention after 60 years in the hands of the same private collector.

"Homage to Douanier Rousseau" was painted by 22-year-old John Bellany in 1964 and portrays the Scottish artist himself (on the far right) alongside his friends and the four members of The Beatles Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

The artwork is a monumental diptych that Bellany painted after travelling to Paris on a scholarship in April 1963. There, the Scottish painter had the chance to observe the masterpieces from the time of the French Revolution, and when he returned to Edinburgh - where he attended the College of Art - he decided to produce "Homage to Douanier Rousseau".

The painting, auctioned last week, replaces the artillerymen in Rousseau's original painting with The Beatles, who by 1964 were at the peak of their global fame and had already become icons of pop music and their entire generation.

It was displayed outside the Royal Scottish Academy in August 1964, and that was the last time it was seen for the past 60 years. 

Bellany's painting is said to have inspired pop artist Peter Blake for his work which became the album cover for the band's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, released in 1967. In the iconic cover, McCartney, Lennon, Harrison and Starr stand in front of a crowd of celebrities wearing an array of psychedelic-looking British Army rank uniforms, insignia and medals.

As Blake was one of Bellany's mentors at the Royal College of Art in London, where Bellany moved after marrying Helen Percy, Sotheby's said "it is not inconceivable that Blake was aware of Bellany's recent work."