Curated by James Cavello
Stuart Sutcliffe was one of the original Beatles and played a key role in the creation of the world's most famous rock group. John Lennon befriended Stuart when both were students at the Liverpool College of Art in 1957 and later persuaded Stuart to join his band as the bass guitarist. A more gifted artist than bass player, it was Stuart, with girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr, who gave the Beatles their unique look.
Ironically, it was his passion for art that drove Stuart to leave the Fab Four to pursue his art career. In 1956 he had joined the Liverpool College of Art, and later on in 1962 enrolled in the Hochschule für Bildende Künsler, Hamburg, under the tutelage of Eduardo Paolozzi. During his lifetime, Stuart created numerous paintings and drawings exploring abstract expressionist forms and contemplating the work of Old and Contemporary Masters. In 1962, just as he was starting to achieve recognition as an artist, Stuart died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage.
The exhibition at WESTWOOD GALLERY NYC included oil on canvas paintings and works on paper from the period 1955 – 1962, as well as photographs by Astrid Kirchherr, a photographer whom he met in Hamburg and was engaged to. The Stuart Sutcliffe collection was compiled and preserved by the artist's sister, Pauline Sutcliffe and was exhibited at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. The collection includes Stuart's original paintings and sketches as well as photographs by Astrid Kirchherr and personal artifacts such as his first guitar and documents released for the first time, including letters and essays written by Stuart, while with the Beatles and after leaving the group.
In the catalogue essay, Donald Kuspits asks about Stuart Sutcliffe: "How would Sutcliffe have developed had he lived--had he not died prematurely, in 1962, at the age of 21? I do not think Sutcliffe would have abandoned Abstract Expressionism, joining the Pop bandwagon--which he had left--or turned toward post-painterly coolness and hard edge or the geometrical sterility of Minimalism. I think Sutcliffe would have taken Abstract Expressionism in a new direction, fusing the gestural subjectivity of his early sixties Hamburg works with the proletarian figuration of his late fifties Liverpool works. He would have reconciled his split consciousness--his split allegiance, torn between emphatic commitment to the environment and working people of Liverpool and to pure painting (into which he displaced all his empathy, which is what helped him come into his own as a painter). He would have become one of the leaders of the New Figuration, then emerging in Germany."