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Intimate Lennon portrait by best friend is unique


a black and white photograph shows Stuart Sutcliffe with his partner Astrid Kirchherr, who took the picture.
Tragic Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe with his partner, photographer Astrid Kircherr.

The only portrait of John Lennon by his then best friend, Stuart Sutcliffe, is a unique insight into the young Beatle. The picture will be sold on June 18th in Chorley, Lancashire with a £20,000 estimate.

Sutcliffe’s watercolour portrait of Lennon was painted in 1961 or 62 in Hamburg.

Sutcliffe was the original Beatles bassist and an extremely close friend of Lennon, whom he met when the pair studied at Liverpool College of Art.

While Lennon’s creative passion was to make him one of the world’s most successful musicians, Sutcliffe was a genuinely gifted painter.

Never a convincing musician, Sutcliffe left the band in 1962 to pursue his painting. His work is still well-regarded today.

When The Beatles returned from Hamburg, he remained there with his partner, legendary Beatles photographer Astrid Kirchherr. She owned this painting along with a portrait of herself that is also being sold.

Sutcliffe died, aged just 21, in April 1962. Lennon was deeply affected and, according to second wife Yoko One, spoke often of Sutcliffe as his “alter ego” and “a guiding force”.

The watercolour was painted in either 1961 or ’62 in the attic studio that Sutcliffe used in the Kircherr family home in Hamburg.

Kircherr – herself a formative influence on the young Liverpool band – died in 2020, and gifted these portraits to her manager, Ulf Kruger, who is selling them now.

She struggled to escape the shadow of The Beatles as an artist in her own right. The images she took of them were iconic, but she was rarely fairly compensated for them. Exploitation and the sexism she encountered in the 60s entertainment world led her to all-but stop taking pictures in 1967.

Sutcliffe’s work has raised as much as $22,260, a price realised in 2023. The connection with Lennon adds particular value to this canvas.

Both items have estimates of £20,000 and are being sold online now by Fab Four specialists Tracks Auctions that closes on June 18th.

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