Despite his political life and significant literary commitments, Churchill was an inveterate traveller and would take his paints, brushes and easels wherever he went. The south of France and the Riviera in particular had an immense appeal to Churchill. The Churchills were strong Francophiles: Clementine spent many years of her childhood in Dieppe and both had several friends who lived across the country. Mary Soames recalls in A Daughter’s Tale how her father would recount Gallic history to her and that his heroine was Joan of Arc.
In 1920, after selling Lullenden, his country retreat in Sussex, Churchill began work on his war memoirs and spent considerable time abroad painting. He appears to have made painting trips to the south of France with Sir John Lavery that summer and again in 1921. In 1922, the year after Mary was born, Churchill and Clementine took their family to the Riviera where they rented the villa Rêve d'Or for six months. From this point Churchill’s love affair with the South of France began. Drawn by good weather and inspired by the landscape Churchill would return on numerous occasions often without Clementine who did not feel comfortable with the Riviera life. He would often stay at the actress Maxine Elliott's house or other villas along the coast including les Zoraides, la Dragonniere and Cap Martin. Later in life Churchill even considered buying a villa in the Riviera but the costs involved eventually put him off.
The present work captures the majestic hill top town of Eze, which dramatically overlooks the coastline outside Nice. Churchill's close friends Consuelo and Jacques Balsan had bought a property over-looking Eze and built a wonderful villa 'Lou Sueil' where Winston and Clementine were frequent guests. Consuelo, one of the American Vanderbilts, was previously married to Churchill's cousin, Sunny, ninth Duke of Marlborough, and had remained good friends with several members of the family. Jacques was a record breaking and pioneering French balloon, aeroplane and hydroplane pilot who once worked with the Wright brothers and their home was frequently filled with other luminaries of the period.
The site had a perfect view of medieval Eze, brought to life in the present work through Churchill's exuberant and confident use of impasto. The villa was surrounded by superb gardens originally created by Achille Duchêne (1866-1947) and must have been a particularly inspiring environment to set up easel and paints.
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