Paul McCartney Paintings Go on Display

Paul McCartney Paintings Go on Display

July 15, 1999 12:00 AM ET

The creative rivalry that characterized John Lennon and Paul McCartney's musical relationship now extends to the visual arts.| Just a month after news broke of the first permanent display of Lennon prints at Liverpool's Mathew Street Gallery, seventy-three of Paul McCartney's 600 paintings have gone on display at the Kunstforum Lyz gallery in the German town of Siegen, and they're drawing rave reviews from art critics.

According to McCartney, he did not begin painting until 1982, as he had always been reluctant to put brush to canvas because he didn't feel qualified. "Someone said life begins at forty, and I wanted to begin, but nothing began," McCartney told reporters at a press conference at the German gallery. "I had this problem ... that 'I don't paint.'" But his friend, painter Willem de Kooning, persuaded him to start. "He was one of the first people to liberate me."

McCartney representative Paul Freundlich says the former Beatle has been painting steadily for the past sixteen years. His work came to the attention of a German cultural events manager named Wolfgang Suttner, who read about Sir Paul's "hobby" and urged her father to contact him. Suttner in turn wrote a letter to the musician asking for permission to see the paintings and evaluate their potential for a show. Much to his surprise, McCartney responded, inviting Suttner to his Sussex, England, home to view the paintings.

"Many [people] did in fact approach me and said they were willing to put on an exhibition, but they hadn't seen the paintings," McCartney explained. "Wolfgang was the first one who came up and said, 'I'd like to look at the pictures and examine them.'"

Noted art critic John Russell Taylor not only examined them at length, but praised the works. "These are the works of someone who, in front of a blank canvas thinks and feels in paint," he told the London Times. "These pictures are challenging: They force the spectator to react . . . Many of them might be taken to mirror a personal anguish in McCartney. If there is autobiography here, it emerges directly from McCartney's unconscious. Which is just what painters do -- real painters, that is.

According to critics, McCartney's art is influenced by the abstract expressionists but also contains elements of pop art and surrealism, while some pieces are cartoon-like caricatures, such as one titled, "Elvish Me," a self-portrait in which Sir Paul paints himself as an Elvis lookalike. Many of the paintings are influenced by his late wife, Linda, including "Yellow Linda With Piano" and "Linda Yellow Cross." Other familiar faces include Rolling Stone drummer Charlie Watts, David Bowie, Lennon, Andy Warhol and Queen Elizabeth II.

I know a lot of people will just automatically not like it because it's me, but that's okay," said McCartney. "It's always risky to do something outside your own field. But I think I've always been taking risks. Back when I was a part of the Beatles, a lot of what we did was risky."

None of the paintings are for sale, according to McCartney's representative. They will be on display at Kunstforum Lyz, St-Johann-Strauss 18 in Siegen until July 25. They will move to the U.K. later this year.

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