Leesburg (Virginia), George C. Marshall International Centre, With Respect and Admiration: The Letters of George C. Marshall and Winston S. Churchill, October 2006 (part of the larger exhibition which runs until 10th December 2006), illustrated in colour in the exhibition catalogue.
‘View of Tinherir’ was painted in 1951, the year Churchill was returned to the Prime Ministry, six years after Allied victory in the Second World War. The Moroccan setting of the work had special meaning for Churchill, who visited Marrakech frequently to compose his war memoirs and to paint. He had been familiar with Morocco since the mid-Twenties, but he prized it most dearly in memory as the site for the Casablanca Conference of early 1943, his first meeting with President Franklin Roosevelt on mutually foreign soil. Roosevelt’s delegation was led by his Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, whom Churchill would come to revere as ‘the last great American’ and ‘the true architect of victory’. ‘View of Tinherir’ would be Churchill’s gift of gratitude to Marshall.
Moroccan landscapes seem to have become closely associated for Churchill with Anglo-American solidarity and affection. He also gave one to Marshall’s subordinate at the Casablanca Conference, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. And the first of this associative grouping he gave to Roosevelt himself. As the Conference broke up, Churchill told the President, ‘You cannot come all this way to North Africa without seeing Marrakech. Let us spend two days there. I must be with you when you see the sunset on the snows of the Atlas Mountains’. For two days they ate together, sang together, and together admired what Churchill called ‘my beloved Marrakech’. After seeing the President to his plane, Churchill sat down at his easel in the tower of a borrowed villa and produced for his friend and ally ‘the only painting I ever attempted during the war’.
By the time the war came to its close, Churchill had come to share Roosevelt’s consummate regard for Marshall, privately extolling the general as ‘the noblest Roman of them all’. ‘Congress,’ he said, ‘always did what he advised. His work in training the American armies has been wonderful. I will pay tribute to it one day when the occasion offers’.
The occasion presented itself in 1953. Marshall had capped his war record by becoming the only American to serve as both Secretary of State (1947-49) and Secretary of Defense (1950-55) and by initiating the extraordinary Marshall Plan, under the terms of which the war-stricken nations of Western Europe, both victors and vanquished, were given economic relief and revitalisation by the United States. For this achievement, surely the most extensive rebuilding project in modern history by a man whose profession was the waging of war, Marshall was presented with the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize. 1953 was also the year of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, and Marshall was asked to attend the ceremony as the United States government’s official representative. As he and his wife Katherine walked to their designated place in the front stalls of Westminster, the distinguished assemblage rose up, clearly paying singular homage to someone admired by all Britons and all envoys of the international community. Marshall turned in confusion to his fellow guest General Omar Bradley and asked, ‘Who are they rising for?’ ‘You,’ Bradley told him. Later that week, Churchill made Marshall the gift of ‘View of Tinherir’.
‘My dear Marshall,’ he wrote in his accompanying letter, ‘I send you herewith the picture I mentioned to you and your Wife the other day. It was painted in January 1951 at a place called Tinherir’. The letter is signed, ‘Your sincere friend WSC’.
‘My dear Sir Winston,’ Katherine Marshall wrote back. ‘Yesterday was a gala day for me, for we hung your painting. It has added so much to the beauty of our drawing-room and has the place of honor’.
Located near Marrakech, Tinherir is a town on the desert side of the Atlas Mountains. Churchill’s painting gives us the drama of a ‘river which flows boldly out of the mountains,’ as he describes it, twisting past an oasis out of which a tall palm reaches brazenly toward the shimmering African sky, and running over stones into the foreground straight toward the viewer on its unlikely way into the Sahara. Some man-made structures and four robed figures share the middle ground with the green strip of foliage, behind which rises the pink of Churchill’s revered Atlas Mountains.
The appearance of 'View of Tinherir' on the open market provides a unique opportunity for collectors to acquire an important piece painted by perhaps the most influential statesman of the Twentieth Century and given as a token of affection and admiration to his partner in the victory over fascism and perhaps the century’s most influential humanitarian. The painting has been exhibited most recently at General Marshall’s home, Dodona Manor, in Leesburg, Virginia, and has remained in the hands of his family for three generations. The present owner is Mrs. Marshall’s grand-daughter, the American actress Kitty Winn, honored as Best Actress at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival. Seen now in the UK for the first time since its showing at the Royal Academy in 1952, ‘View of Tinherir’ will be added to the David Coombs catalogue of Sir Winston Churchill’s paintings as number C538.
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