John Lennon portrait by Stuart Sutcliffe in Surrey sale

A painting by tragic former bassist Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe, said to have been ripped up by John Lennon in a moment of frustration, is the star lot in Surrey auction house Ewbank’s next Entertainment Memorabilia auction on May 30.

Consigned by the family of a friend of Lennon’s, it is a highly stylized portrait of the Beatle in a manner consistent with other portraits by Sutcliffe, an aspiring painter and artist. A 1967 photograph of John Lennon lying on the sofa in the sunroom at his home, Kenwood, in St George’s Hill, Weybridge, shows the painting hung on the wall behind.

Analysis of the image has allowed Ewbank’s to superimpose an image of the picture consigned for auction over the image in the photograph. The details within the painting show an exact fit.

Stuart Sutcliffe was a Scottish painter and musician best known as the original bass guitarist of the Beatles and he and Lennon are credited with inventing the band name. At the time Sutcliffe was performing with The Beatles in Hamburg, he met photographer Astrid Kirchherr. After leaving The Beatles, he enrolled in the Hamburg College of Art, studying under Eduardo Paolozzi. Sutcliffe died in Germany in 1962.

Inscribed J to the left of the sitter’s neck in the portrait, it carries a printed label on the reverse of the frame which reads Bernard E. Clark, The Boat House Gallery, Walton On Thames, Surrey.

Bernard Clark was Director of Photography for Cave Photographic Studios based in Cobham, Weybridge and Addlestone, Surrey in the late 1960s. They provided photographic equipment to The Beatles.

Bernard and his wife became friends with the band, especially John Lennon and Ringo Starr, who both lived locally in St George’s Hill, Weybridge at this time.

The Clarks forged a close relationship with Ringo Starr and were regular visitors to John and Cynthia Lennon’s Kenwood home. It was during one of Bernard’s visits to Kenwood, when Yoko Ono was present, that John Lennon gifted this artwork to Bernard after he had prevented Lennon from completely tearing it up in a frustrated moment.

The vendor remembers as a child, attending Zak Starkey’s birthday parties and on occasions being driven to school in the psychedelic Rolls Royce by John Lennon’s chauffeur, Les Anthony.

In the early 1970s Bernard Clark started his own business, The Boat House Gallery, Walton-On-Thames, Surrey, where this artwork was framed. The 41 x 56cm image is mounted, framed and glazed, measuring 87 x 85cm overall, and is estimated at £3,000-5,000.

A copy of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band signed by the band

Other highlights from the collection of Bernard Clark include cine camera footage transferred to VHS cassette of a film called Sergeant Pepper Forever, by a Swedish director and apparently shot as promo videos for tracks from the album, including She’s Leaving HomeA Day in the Life and Lovely Rita. In all, the tape features around 30 minutes of promo videos and TV clips of The Beatles and others. Offered with a series of books including a First Edition of The Penguin John Lennon [In His Own Write & Spaniard in the Works] – a gift to Clark from Lennon – together they are guided at £80-120.

“This is a unique set of circumstances behind an iconic image linked to an historic moment in the life the most important band in rock and pop history,” said Senior Partner Andrew Ewbank. “Beatles memorabilia is a market all on its own, and items like these that have such a closely defined personal link with any member of the group, especially John or Paul, are of outstanding interest to fans.”