LONDON - On Friday 8 May, two minutes silence marked the moment Sir Winston Churchill broadcast his speech to formally announce victory over Germany in 1945. Last weekend saw events across the UK and the world in tribute to those who did so much to ensure victory in Europe.
Churchill was paramount to this successful outcome and, in this the 50th anniversary year of his death, his position as one of the greatest leaders of all time has been justly celebrated. It is through Churchill’s paintings, however, that a more sensitive side to his character is revealed. These works portray the private Churchill, encapsulating his zest for life and the immense pleasure he derived from painting. Throughout his life, Churchill used painting as a form of relaxation, usually depicting his travels, houses he visited both at home and abroad. He discovered his passion when he was 40, in the wake of the debacle of the 1915 Dardanelles campaign, for which, as First Lord of the Admiralty, he had to take responsibility. From this moment on, painting was an essential part of his life, as his daughter Mary Soames, commented: “Painting not only opened up for my father a complete new world of colour, of light and shade, of proportion and perspective, but I am convinced this compelling occupation played a real part in enabling him to confront storms, ride out depressions, and to rise above the rough passages of his political life.”
Sir Winston Churchill’s Flowers in a Green Glass Vase. Estimate: £150,000–250,000 ($222,930 - 371,550).
As such it is rare for Churchill to take war as his subject. He had painted three works when on the Western Front in 1915, but it was it was not until more than ten years later that returned to the subject of the Great War. Painted in 1927, Troops Going to the Front, 1917 was inspired by a photograph taken by F. J. Mortimer in 1917 (now in the Studio archives at Chartwell). The emotive scene shows soldiers waving to their loved ones at Victoria Station as they leave to join the Front is offered in the Modern and Post-war Britsh Art sales this June, alongside a beautiful and important still life by Churchill from the collection of Senator and Mrs John W. Warner, Virginia Ret. and Sir Jacob Epstein’s bronze bust of Churchill, commissioned by the War Artist’s Advisory Committee in 1946.
Sir Jacob Epstein’s Sir Winston Churchill. Estimate £60,000–80,000 ($89,172 - 118,896).
For Churchill, this subject would have held a particular resonance as he too had waved goodbye to his family when he went to the front in 1915. Little did Churchill know when he painted Troops Going to the Front, 1917 in 1927, that within another decade war would break out for a second time and, in his role as Prime Minister, he would again send troops to the battlefields of Europe.