Yoko Ono; John Lennon

Identify sitters

© Annie Leibovitz

5 Likes voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Make a donation Close

Yoko Ono; John Lennon

by Annie Leibovitz
C-type colour print, 1980
12 7/8 in. x 12 7/8 in. (327 mm x 327 mm)
Given by the photographer, Annie Leibovitz, 1995
Primary Collection
NPG P628

Sittersback to top

  • John Lennon (1940-1980), Musician; co-founder and singer for The Beatles. Sitter in 90 portraits, Artist or producer of 2 portraits. Identify
  • Yoko Ono (1933-), Artist, musician and activist; second wife of John Lennon. Sitter in 14 portraits. Identify

Artistback to top

  • Annie Leibovitz (1949-), Photographer. Artist or producer of 15 portraits, Sitter in 2 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The musician John Lennon and the performance artist Yoko Ono married in 1969. It was one of the most talked about relationships of the time, not least because many fans of the Beatles blamed Yoko for the break up of the band. John was defensive about the intensity of their love, writing in the lyrics to 'God' (1970): 'I just believe in me, Yoko and me, and that's reality'. In 1980, the magazine Rolling Stone commissioned this portrait. This celebrated photograph, taken by Annie Leibovitz in the couple's Manhattan apartment, suggests more than just two lovers. Its poignancy is in Lennon's nakedness and the vulnerability of his foetal curl as he plants a tender kiss on Yoko's cheek. Five hours later, Lennon had been shot dead by a fan.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Cooper, John, Great Britons: The Great Debate, 2002, p. 147 Read entry

    John used to call her 'Mother'; much of the love she gave him was maternal, protective and disciplinary, giving him the confidence and direction to be fully himself and stretch his artistic boundaries. This photograph celebrates his vulnerability and dependence, and immortalises their enduring love as a couple, and the integrity of their aesthetic and political activities. But within hours of the photograph being taken, John Lennon was murdered. Distributed around the world as a Rolling Stone magazine cover, the image was instantly transformed. It became a memorial to Lennon and a profound emblem of the fragility of human passion.

  • Edited by Lucy Peltz & Louise Stewart, Love Stories: Art, Passion & Tragedy, 2020, p. 167
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 376
  • Schama, Simon, The Face of Britain: The Nation Through its Portraits, 2015-09-15, p. 237
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 240 Read entry

    John Lennon first met Yoko Ono after The Beatles’ final tour in 1966, at her exhibition at the Indica Gallery, London. They married in Gibraltar in 1969. As a couple, they promoted peace, feminism and racial harmony and their activism against prejudice included staging a ‘Bed-In’ for peace in Amsterdam, and later Montreal, where they recorded the single ‘Give Peace a Chance’. Their son, Sean Ono Lennon, was born in 1975. The last of her Lennon pictures made over thirteen years, this image was taken by Annie Leibovitz (b.1949) at the couple’s New York flat, a few hours before Lennon was murdered. In her publication Annie Leibovitz Photographs (1983), Leibovitz recalled, in conversation with her interviewer David Felton: ‘I really felt that what was so phenomenal of their time together was that they were still together … I thought of the embrace, them lying naked together, and the embrace is based on something from my life, the way I used to sleep with someone, a very relaxed position. So I had sketches made of them lying exactly like that and I tried it on them.’ This iconic image was later published on the cover of the magazine Rolling Stone (22 January 1981).

Placesback to top

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1980back to top

Current affairs

Margaret Thatcher makes one of her most famous speeches, living up to her nickname of 'the Iron Lady'. The speech was given to the Conservative Party conference in Brighton in response to the media speculation that the party would go back on its counter-inflationary policies: 'The lady's not for turning!'

Art and science

John Lennon is murdered on the steps of his house. After fatally shooting him, Mark David Chapman calmly sat down on the pavement and waited to be arrested by police. Chapman had a history of mental illness and claimed that he had committed the murder as a way of getting attention.


Iraq invades Iran, beginning eight years of conflict. The invasion followed years of border disputes, but was precipitated by the 1979 revolution in Iran and the resulting instability which Saddam Hussein saw as an opportunity to expand Iraqi influence in the region. Despite early gains for Iraq, the conflict soon descended into a war of attrition with huge causalities caused by Iraq's use of chemical weapons.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.


09 December 2020, 06:11

I can tell you that my personal long time close friend Richard Vogel assisted Annie Leibovitz on this day in the apartment of John and Yoko in the Dakota building in NYCity. He could tell you much more about that day. I just spoke to him to remind him that it’s been 40 years since that day when so sadly 5 hours after their shoot, John was taken from Yoko and the family along with all his devoted fans. If you’d like to contact a Richard, let me know.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.


How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.