Stuart Sutcliffe was an artist who died tragically young on the 10th April 1962. A man who gave so much yet was robbed of so much.
John first met Stu at the Liverpool College of Art, and immediately gained a tremendous influence from him. Stu’s artistic work was unrivalled at the school and his high intellect and great imagery gained him the respect of many students and teachers alike.
Some of his earliest works were self portraits portraying his James dean image. One of these, which was done around 1958/9 shows Stu holding a paintbrush, summing up his love of art.
Looking at his photo’s and self portraits his constant thought and awareness can be seen, perhaps it was his paintings with which he found a way of escaping from the true realities in the same way that John did through his songs.
His paintings were things straight from his mind, incorporating events around him into such tiny spaces that, maybe, only he and John could understand.
John looked up to Stuart, he was a man who stood for something, who wanted to make something of his life, an attitude which the Beatles adopted. Stu was persuaded to buy a bass guitar with £60 he got for one of his paintings that was sold at a John Moores exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery. Despite this, however, he was not very musically inclined.
Stu was very photogenic and his cool character poses in early photo’s of “The Silver Beatles” taught the others a few things that were put to good use in later sessions.
When Stu met Astrid Kirchherr and fell deeply in love with her, their two talents were fused as is shown in Astrid’s famous photo’s of the Beatles.According to the history books, it was Stu who was the first to have the legendary “mop top” haircut, closely followed by George, Paul and then John.
The few of Stuart’s paintings that were exhibited in the “Art Of The Beatles” exhibition, show what he and John thought of the world (things balanced precariously on top of each other, while new was pushing old into the past). Stuart was forever creating images, while old ones were getting worn and stale, he was creating a new one.
The early quiet artist, the James Dean image, the mean and moody self portraits, the thinking artist. This was something that John followed suit with, John Lennon – the Beatle, the psychedelic creator, the peacemaker, the politician, the family man. For both, life was tragically short, Stuart painted a fantastic world of Strawberry Fields and contrasting images, John took these images and more and created the music and stories that are now legends.
By Alastair Morton.