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Sir Oswald Birley, M.C., R.A.
PORTRAIT OF SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL, HALF LENGTH, WEARING A SIREN SUIT
Lot. Vendu 1,426,500 GBP (Prix d’adjudication avec commission acheteur)
ACCÉDER AU LOT
169
Sir Oswald Birley, M.C., R.A.
PORTRAIT OF SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL, HALF LENGTH, WEARING A SIREN SUIT
Lot. Vendu 1,426,500 GBP (Prix d’adjudication avec commission acheteur)
ACCÉDER AU LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Daughter of History: Mary Soames and the Legacy of Churchill

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Sir Oswald Birley, M.C., R.A.
1880-1952
PORTRAIT OF SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL, HALF LENGTH, WEARING A SIREN SUIT

Description

'He [Churchill] looks tranquil and benign and, as such, very much reflected her [Mary's] image of her father' (Emma Soames, 2014)

Churchill was one of the most photographed and painted figures of the twentieth century. Portraits by the leading artists of the day, including Lavery, Orpen and Sickert, have been so often reproduced that Churchill’s face as the pugnacious politician has come to be instantly recognizable. Sir Oswald Birley, on the other hand, chose to portray in this work, a more reflective side of Churchill in his seventy-seventh year. The portrayal is no less impressive or formidable, the keen intelligence and indomitable personality clear, but Birley has captured a certain serene dignity and tenderness as Churchill sits informally, tie removed wearing his signature siren suit. These suits were modelled on the boiler suits Churchill wore to lay bricks and he wore them casually both at Chartwell and at Chequers. This portrait was Lady Soames’s favoured painting of her father - her daughter Emma recently recalled: 'In a very prominent spot behind my mother's armchair hung her favourite portrait of her father, painted by Oswald Birley when Churchill was in his seventies. It is easy to understand why she loved it so much. He looks tranquil and benign and, as such, very much reflected her image of her father’ (Emma Soames, 2014).

Birley first painted Churchill in June 1946 as a commission by the Speaker of the House of Commons to be hung at his residence at the Palace of Westminster. Churchill could be notoriously difficult about not just having his photo taken, but also sitting patiently for portraits, and Mary Soames recollects a tricky beginning to the sittings for the portrait which took place at Chartwell in the studio: ‘The relationship got off to a rather sticky start because Winston became awkward and did not want to be distracted from his own ploys… I was deputed to look after Captain Birley  and “organise” my father and the sittings.  There is a rather fussed entry in my diary for 14 June 1946: “I have spent today chasing Papa to sit for Mr B. – entertaining Mr B, and cooking …” Of course I lacked both my mother’s status and her courage – eventually, however, the sittings started, Oswald Birley’s quiet charm and my father’s respect for an artist soon melted away any difficulties, and I recorded with relief: “Found Mr B and Papa well-pleased with each other and the portrait.” And the following day: “Papa sat goodly all day”’ (Mary Soames, Winston Churchill His Life as a Painter, London, Collins, 1990, p.152). Churchill would dictate to his secratary during the sittings which usually lasted for two hours. This 1946 portrait remains in the collection of the Houses of Parliament and Birley went on to paint at least four further paintings of Churchill, one of which is the present work painted in 1950, a couple of years before Birley died.

Daughter of History: Mary Soames and the Legacy of Churchill

|
Londres