- Gerald Scarfe
- Churchill in the House of Commons
THE LAST DRAWING OF WINSTON CHURCHILL IN HIS FINAL APPEARANCE AT PARLIAMENT IN JULY 1964.
Churchill was first elected in the 1900 general election but did not attend the opening of Parliament that December. He first took his seat in the House of Commons on 14 February 1901. Over six decades later he made his final appearance on 28 July 1964.
Scarfe was commissioned by The Times to record the occasion. He notes ‘I sketched from the public gallery, and I was shocked to see how he had deteriorated. We knew only the British bulldog Churchill: cigar clenched between teeth, steely eyes, and the famous two-finger salute…’
On 29 July 1964, The Times published a four column report (‘Commons express their admiration and affection for Sir Winston Churchill’) on page 8 together with a photograph and further report (‘A Churchillian Occasion in Commons’) on page 10. The reports note that ‘the Chamber was crowded. Members squatted in the aisles and stood six deep at the Bar of the House’. Churchill, himself, was described as a ‘squat, hunched figure with the fiery eyes’. But there was no Scarfe drawing.
As the artist states ‘…The Times refused to print my drawing, saying that Churchill’s wife, Clementine, would be upset when the paper dropped through the letter-box in the morning.’
Less than six months later, Churchill was dead.
Scarfe had complained about his treatment by The Times to Peter Cook who, according to the artist, ‘saw that the drawing was used for the cover of Private Eye when Churchill died’; a cropped version of the drawing was published on 5 February 1965.
Following exhibition in Scarfe’s Hung, Drawn and Slaughtered exhibition at Portcullis House, House of Commons in 2008, the portrait has been displayed in this location until recently.
Scarfe’s work on Churchill was not the only time he sketched in the House of Commons. He notes ‘I was given special permission by the Sergeant-at-Arms in the House of Commons to sketch Parliamentary members from the public gallery.’ One result was a huge oil painting of the House of Commons in session on 27 June 1965. That painting remains on permanent loan to Portcullis House, House of Commons.