Lot 54
  • 54

Edwin Arthur Ward

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
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  • Edwin Arthur Ward
  • Portrait of Sir Winston Churchill as a young man, seated at his desk
  • signed with initials
  • oil on canvas
  • 40.5 by 51cm.; 16 by 20in.


There is mild undulation at the upper corners of the original canvas and a light horizontal crease at the top left. There are two lines of paint cracking which measure approximately 1.5cm at the left of the upper edge and the upper right edge. Further fine lines of painting cracking are seen in areas including but not limited to the figure's jacket and the white pigment in the lower right corner. Craquelure is visible in the figures forehead and in other parts of the composition. There is a spot of old loss and in-filling to the centre of the forehead, a further to the top of the head; a third to the upper left quadrant, and a fourth in the bottom right. There are further traces of minor lifting in areas the forehead and the upper left quadrant. Light surface dirt and matter is visible across the picture. Ultraviolet light reveals some small areas of soft florescence in at the right edge of the composition and the upper left corner, consistent with areas of retouching. The painting is presented in a dark frame with a gilt slip. 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

In 1886, Ward had painted a portrait (now hanging at Chartwell) of Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill, sitting at the same magnificently appointed desk, on the same heavy oak chair, dressed in an identical black coat, waistcoat and tie, caught in the midst of sending a missive of some importance: 1886 being the year Lord Randolph was both Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons.

The present work probably dates from around 1900, after Lord Randolph’s premature death in 1895. Not only was the young Winston engaged in writing a biography of his father around this time, which would have provided an apt context for the commission itself and  explains the close similarities of its setting, but he was starting to make a name for himself as a politician, rather than as a writer and war correspondent, thus following the career his father, consciously or not, had mapped out for him.

The portrait of Lord Randolph is much more formal: the sitter is viewed side on, the pose stiff with intent, the act of writing more a symbolic act, denoting power and influence. Winston, on the other hand, seems to be actually writing a letter and a personal one at that.  His father holds a quill, as befits a Victorian aristocrat and political grandee;  Winston wields a fountain pen, a symbol of his modernity and the quickening pace of the world around him.

 In contrast to the static portrait of his father, this is a painting full of charm and energy, a beautifully judged study of a young man’s ambition.