Without doubt one of the most interesting aspects behind any painting by Sir Winston Churchill is the story that accompanies it. Having never sold a work during his lifetime the vast majority were given by the Artist to friends, colleagues, employees, foreign dignitaries or family members. This often fascinating provenance trail leads to a ‘who’s-who’ within the history of the past century – whether American presidents, his youngest daughter Mary (whose sale Daughter of History: Mary Soames and the Legacy of Churchill at Sotheby's in 2014 saw a new record set twice in the same day for the Artist at auction), or, more recently, the actress Vivien Leigh, whose Study of Roses achieved £638,750, having been gifted by Churchill to the actress in 1951. The history of Churchill’s paintings tell the very personal story of one of the greatest figures of the past century, including The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell (see previous lot), which was the last painting the Artist completed before his death, or the present work, Landscape with Two Trees, which was gifted in the early 1920s to Miss Maud Elgie, who between 1919 and 1921 had charge over the household’s nursery and Churchill and Clementine’s two eldest children, Diana and Randolph. The location behind the present work is unknown, and may well have been a composite landscape, inspired in large part by the landscape of Mimizan in the Landes, South of Bordeaux. Churchill was a regular visitor to the region, staying first with his close friend the Duke of Westminster. Here he was drawn to the landscape, returning on several occasions, including with the artist John Lavery and later Edward Marsh. Resulting in some of the earliest and also most accomplished compositions of Churchill’s career, paintings from this early 1920s period were given as gifts, including Mimizan, Landes (circa 1927, Private Collection), which was given by Churchill to the First World War Prime Minister David Lloyd George.
The enjoyment that Churchill took in the process of painting and developing composition is well documented, including in his self-penned Painting as a Pastime, first published in The Strand Magazine in 1921-2. One has only to observe the present composition to fully appreciate the sheer enjoyment that the process brought. The paint is freely applied with richly textured passages of bright, glossy impasto. The oranges that tumble freely from the tree have a delicious colouring and the soft, warm sky beautifully captures the affinity that he felt for the French landscape. To stand before the present composition one is drawn into Churchill’s world, and to understand a little further the history behind the work is to be granted a private glimpse into the household of one of the greatest figures of recent times.
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