Lot 181
  • 181

Sir Winston Churchill, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., HON. R.A.

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • Sir Winston Churchill, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., HON. R.A.
  • The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell
  • oil on canvas
  • 63.5 by 76.5cm.; 25 by 30in.
  • Executed in 1932.


Clementine Churchill and thence by descent to her daughter Mary


London, Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition, 1st May - 8th August 1948, cat. no.102;
Kansas City, The Nelson Gallery, Winston Churchill the Painter, 1958, catalogue number untraced, with tour to Detroit, New York, Washington, Providence, Dallas, Minneapolis and Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal, Fredericton, Vancouver, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, and Perth; 
London, Royal Academy of Arts Diploma Gallery, Winston Churchill Honorary Academician Extraordinary, 1959, unnumbered, illustrated;
London, M. Knoedler & Co., "Painting as a Pastime" by Sir Winston Churchill K.G., O.M., C.H., May - June 1977, number untraced;
London, Wylma Wayne Fine Art, Sir Winston Churchill: Exhibition of Paintings, 24th June - 30th July 1982, cat. no.44, illustrated;
New York, National Academy of Design, Painting as a Pastime: The Paintings of Winston S. Churchill, 12th May - 3rd July 1983, with tour to Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Castle Building, 21st September - 2nd November 1983, illustrated;
London, Sotheby's, Painting as a Pastime: Winston Churchill - His Life as a Painter, 5th - 17th January 1998, cat. no.51, illustrated p.122.


Bruce Ingram (ed.), 'An Eightieth Year Tribute to Winston Churchill', The Illustrated London News, 1944, illustrated;
'The Paintings of Winston Churchill', LIFE, 7th January 1946, illustrated;
The Strand Magazine, August 1946, illustrated;
Winston Churchill, Painting as a Pastime, Odhams Press Ltd. and Ernest Benn Ltd., London, 1948, illustrated fig.9;
David Coombs, Churchill: His Paintings, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1967, cat. no.344, illustrated p.211;  
Mary Soames, Winston Churchill: His Life as a Painter, William Collins Sons & Co., London, 1990, cat. no.44, illustrated p.120;
Mary Soames, Chartwell, National Trust, Swindon, 1992, illustrated p. 34;
David Coombs and Minnie S. Churchill, Sir Winston Churchill's Life through his Paintings, Chaucer Press, London, 2003, cat. no.C344, illustrated p.67;
David Coombs and Minnie S. Churchill, Sir Winston Churchill His Life and His Paintings, Ware House Publishing, Lyme Regis, 2011, cat. no.C344, illustrated p.67.


The following condition report was prepared by Hamish Dewar Conservation, December 2014: Structural condition The canvas is unlined on the original keyed wooden stretcher. There are some slightly raised lines of drying craquelure which would benefit from localised consolidation to ensure long-term structural stability. Lining should certainly not be required for the foreseeable future and it is obviously most encouraging to find the canvas in it's original unlined state. Paint surface The paint surface has a very discoloured and opaque varnish layer with the artist's characteristic layer of nicotine. As with so many paintings of this provenance cleaning would undoubtedly result in a transformation in the overall appearance. No retouchings are visible under ultra-violet light. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in excellent condition and should respond extremely well to cleaning and revarnishing. Please contact the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

We are grateful to David Coombs for his kind assistance with the cataloguing of the present work.

Painted in 1932, The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell is undoubtedly Churchill's masterpiece from the decade. Hung in pride of place above Lady Soames's mantelpiece in the Drawing Room at West House, the painting is a culmination of all that Churchill had learnt since first wielding a paint brush in 1915. Chosen by the artist to be illustrated in the first edition of Painting as a Pastime published in 1948, the painting is a striking manifestation of the artist at his very best. 

Capturing the spontaneous movement of vividly coloured golden orfe, the composition combines a masterly demonstration of Churchill's skill and talent in recreating the subtle reflections and texture of water whilst at the same time bringing to life a subject that was particularly dear to him. His grand-daughter Emma Soames recalls the Sunday ritual for all the grand-children of following their Grandpapa down to the pool to watch him feed the goldfish. Pied-piper like, they would proceed in single file behind him, across the stepping stones to his usual seat by the water-side where Churchill would tap his walking stick, stirring the goldfish to life. The pool was part of Churchill's extensive renovation of all the water features at Chartwell and became a particularly contemplative spot where he could be found feeding his beloved fish right up until the end of his life.

Enthusiasm for the goldfish stretched across all generations: ‘Yesterday Papa and I walked round all the lakes, and in the round one below the pool there are about 1,000 little golden orfe! Isn’t it exciting? They are no bigger than this and pale goldy yellow in colour with here & there a touch of red. They look so sweet swimming about in the weeds. Papa is very much excited, as indeed we all are, and he says their existence is due to the horrible common tenches, pike etc, which would prey on them, having been killed…’ (Mary Soames, letter to Clementine Churchill, 1938, quoted in Mary Soames, A Daughter’s Tale, Doubleday, London, 2011, p.157).

Unlike many of his landscapes at Chartwell which focus on a wide panorama of the impressive gardens, stretching out over the Weald of Kent, The Goldfish Pool is unusual in zooming right into the water itself taking in the luscious foliage along the water side. More than simply capturing a corner of the pond however, the picture is an exemplary essay in tonality, combining multiple hues of greens and browns to striking effect. The quality of handling is unparalleled within his oeuvre, Churchill's deft brush-strokes enlivening the water's surface, portraying the dynamic interplay of light, reflection and movement with great aplomb.