Lot 561
  • 561

SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., HON. R.A. | An Open Staircase, La Capponcina, Cap d’Ail

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
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  • Sir Winston Churchill, K.G., O.M., C.H., Hon. R.A.
  • An Open Staircase, La Capponcina, Cap d’Ail
  • oil on canvas
  • 40 by 51cm.; 15¾ by 20in.
  • Executed circa the 1940s.


Bequeathed by the Artist to Arabella Churchill


David Coombs, Churchill: His Paintings, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1967, cat. no.236, illustrated p.157;
David Coombs and Minnie S. Churchill, Sir Winston Churchill His Life and His Paintings, Ware House Publishing, Lyme Regis, 2011, cat. no.236, illustrated p.75;


Compiled by Alex France at Hamish Dewar Ltd, 22/05/2018:Structural ConditionThe canvas is unlined and is securely attached to what certainly appears to be the artist'soriginal keyed wooden stretcher. This is ensuring an even and stable structural support. Thereare traces of the artist's paint on the reverse of the canvas.Paint SurfaceThe paint surface has an even varnish layer.The paint film has a speckled appearance in the lower half of the composition which isparticularly evident within the lower left quadrant. This would appear to be a attributable tochanges in climatic conditions.The paint surface is stable.Inspection under ultraviolet light shows just a few small spots of retouching within the darkgreen foliage above the wall in the upper right quadrant of the composition.SummaryThe painting would therefore appear to be in good and stable condition.Please telephone 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.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these works will be gifted to the Charity that Arabella Churchill started, Children’s World.Churchill and his wife had a lifelong fascination with France: Clementine spent many years of her childhood in Dieppe and they both had several friends who lived across the country and whom they would regularly visit. The south of France in particular had an immense appeal to Churchill, who was attracted not only by the warm weather, beautiful landscapes and sparkling colours of the Mediterranean, but also to the ancient history of the land.

In 1920 he made the first of many painting trips to the South of France accompanied by Sir John Lavery, one his most important artistic mentors, and the French Riviera quickly became one of Churchill’s favourite painting locations. Such was the appeal, that in 1922 Churchill and his family moved to the Riviera, renting the villa Rêve d’Or for six months. This love affair with the south of France was to continue for the rest of his life and Churchill was lucky enough to be able to stay in many spectacular villas along the coast including villa La Capponcina on the coast of the Cap d’Ail, near Monte Carlo which is depicted in this work.

This idyllic villa was owned by Churchill’s long-time political friend, Lord Beaverbrook, who was most renowned for building the Daily Express into the most successful mass circulation newspaper of its time. Churchill and Beaverbrook’s friendship was a tumultuous one, often resulting in major disagreements when engaging in political discussions, but it was certainly one of mutual respect that continued until the end of their lives. During the Second World War Churchill persuaded Beaverbrook to serve as Minister of Aircraft Production and later as Lord Privy Seal. Churchill would regularly visit La Capponcina, considering it a particularly relaxing retreat: he and Clementine celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary there in September 1958 and in the later 1960s when Churchill’s base was Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, he took to visiting the garden in the afternoons, painting or just sitting in the sun. Mary Soames described the villa as ‘an oasis of privacy … with lovely views’ (Mary Soames quoted in David Coombs and Minnie Churchill, 2011, op. cit., p.235) and several of Churchill’s compositions centre around the house, terraced gardens and views across the Mediterranean (see David Coombs and Minnie Churchill, 2011, op. cit., pp.234-237).

As with so many of his works, a sense of quiet and privacy pervades this scene. Churchill has chosen a discrete corner of the garden, capturing the movement of light and shadows across the walls as the afternoon draws to a close. The terracotta and sun-burnt stone of the buildings are set in contrast to the lush vegetation of the over-hanging trees, pots brimming over with plants and the lush grass of the lawn in this little courtyard. The viewer is drawn into the painting, the steps focusing our gaze on the narrow archway, leading to the rambling grounds of the villa beyond. The painting, bustling with architectural angles and evocative Mediterrean colours, encapsulates a small corner of a paradise that meant so much to Churchill.