Stuart Sutcliffe and The Beatles

21 August to 23 November 2003

This exhibition has now closed

Photo of man and woman kissing

Stuart with his girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr

Stuart Sutcliffe was an original member of The Beatles and one of John Lennon's closest friends.

He joined the band in 1960 but left a year and a half later to concentrate on his art studies. By this time he was engaged to Astrid Kirchherr, who he met whilst performing with the band at the Kaiserkeller Club in Hamburg.

Although he was only a Beatle for a short time his influence on their future success has largely gone unrecognised.

It is claimed that it was Stuart who came up with the Beatles name and that John would not play in the band without him. His relationship with Astrid also influenced the bands look.

National Museums Liverpool with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund purchased some of the most important items from a unique collection which was auctioned in July 2003.


Self portrait in charcoal, Hamburg

Roughly drawn portrait of a man's head, slightly bowed

Stuart took a sabbatical from art college to go to Hamburg with The Beatles. Although he bought paper and charcoal he could not get any enthusiasm for drawing.

Astrid tried to encourage him by giving him gifts of paper, inks and crayon. By May 1961 Stuart was painting again, he had lost his enthusiasm for The Beatles and rediscovered his art.

"I am mounting my best work for examination by my tutor. All of it is far superior to what I would have done a year ago."

Stuart Sutcliffe, October 1961.

Stuart's first guitar

Acoustic guitar

Stuart learnt his first chords on this guitar. In 1959 he replaced it with a Hoffner President bought with money from the sale of his 'Summer Painting' to John Moores.

Stuart was not a gifted musician but he practised hard. He joined Johnny and the Moondogs, who became The Beatles, as bass guitarist.

During their time in Hamburg his playing became more of an issue. He was holding them back musically and his friendship with John was the only thing keeping him in the band.

This guitar went on display in The Beat Goes On exhibition at World Museum from 2008 to 2009.

Beatles suit

tailored pale grey suit with thin black trim on collarless jacket

London tailor Douglas Millings made many of the early stage suits for The Beatles.

They were made in grey wool mixed with mohair and in other shades, some of which they never wore.

Millings took the idea of collarless jackets from similar suits created in 1960 by French designer Pierre Cardin.

'Beatle suits' proved so popular with fans that many had copies specially made. Ready-made versions were also available through adverts in music publications.