Lot 11
  • 11

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

50,000 - 80,000 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
  • 40 by 50.5cm.; 15¾ by 20in.
  • Executed circa 1962.


A gift from the Artist to Sergeant Edmund Murray (Sir Winston's bodyguard 1950 - 1965) and thence by descent to the present owners


Andrew Marr (presenter), Churchill: Blood, Sweat and Oil Paint, BBC Productions, 2015, illustrated.


The signature was added at the request of the Artist by his bodyguard, Sergeant Edmund Murray. Original canvas. The canvas undulates slightly, and there is an Artist's pinhole in the upper left corner, but otherwise the canvas appears sound. There are lines of cracking apparent to the work, and also some small lines of reticulation. There are some old flecks of loss visible in the upper right corner. There are some instances of frame abrasion apparent around the edges, with some small flecks of loss apparent at the right vertical edge. There are some tiny flecks of loss to the work in places, including; one to the brown pigment at the centre left of the work, one just above and slightly to the left of this, two to the green pigment just above the orange-yellow pigment in the upper right quadrant, one to the green pigment in the lower right quadrant, with one or two further tiny flecks elsewhere, including to the impasto tips. There is some surface dirt and studio detritus, however subject to the above, the work appears to be in good overall condition. Ultraviolet light reveals a cloudy layer of varnish. There are some spots of retouching, most apparent to the lower left corner, with two further areas in the centre, and another in the lower right quadrant, with some further small flecks elsewhere. The work is presented in a painted wooden frame. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
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Catalogue Note

The present work is registered in the Churchill Paintings Catalogue as cat. no.C544.

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

The Goldfish Pool was one of Churchill's favourite spots in the garden at Chartwell. Situated just beyond the house itself and surrounded by wonderfully verdant shrubbery including bamboos, hydrangea, acers and cotoneaster, the pool was part of Winston'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. His grand-daughter Emma Soames recalled 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 he would tap his walking stick, stirring the goldfish to 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 present work 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 with the golden orfe brought to life through flashes of orange impasto that undoubtedly verge on the abstract. Churchill had focused on the same subject in his masterpiece from 1932, which was formerly in the collection of his daughter, Mary, and sold in these rooms for a world auction record of £1,762,500.

This painting of the Goldfish Pool takes on an added significance as it was the last work Churchill ever painted. During the final years of his life, he painted less frequently and not at all after around 1962. His bodyguard Sergeant Edmund Murray (1916-1996), who served with him from 1950 until his death in 1965, provided much support and encouragement in setting up his easel and preparing his brushes. Murray remembered that the final occasion Sir Winston used brushes was at Chartwell around 1962. It is fitting that his final painting should have focused on one of his favourite places in the garden of his beloved home.