Lot 9
  • 9

SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., HON. R.A. | La Dragonnière, Cap Martin

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
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  • Sir Winston Churchill, K.G., O.M., C.H., Hon. R.A.
  • La Dragonnière, Cap Martin
  • signed
  • oil on canvas
  • 61 by 76cm.; 24 by 30in.
  • Executed in 1937.


Lady Spencer-Churchill
Sale, Sotheby's London, 26th April 1961, lot 127, where acquired by Mrs A.M. Oppenheim
Sale, Sotheby's London, 20th April 1966, lot 113A, where acquired by the father of the present owner, and thence by descent


David Coombs, Churchill: His Paintings, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1967, cat. no.267, illustrated p.182;
David Coombs, Sir Winston Churchill's Life Through His Paintings, Chaucer Press, London, 2003, cat. no.267, illustrated p.178;
David Coombs, Sir Winston Churchill, His Life and His Paintings, Ware House Publishing, Lyme Regis, 2011, cat. no.267, illustrated p.178.


The canvas is original. The canvas undulates very slightly in the extreme lower left corner. There are some extremely fine lines of craquelure scattered throughout, with some extremely minor flecks of loss apparent in the tree canopy, in the left-hand tree, with one or two pin head sized flecks of loss in the right-hand tree. There is some slight flattening to one or two instances of raised impasto. There is some light surface dirt throughout and a thick varnish. This excepting the work appears to be in excellent overall condition. The nature of the varnish makes a reading under ultraviolet light difficult. There are scattered areas of fluorescence which appear in keeping with the Artist's materials, but one or two may relate to small associated losses. If so, these have been very sensitively executed. The work is held within a linen slip in a painted and gilt wood frame. 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

'It is wonderful - after one has tried and failed so often - to see how easily and surely the true artist is able to produce every effect of light and shade, of sunshine and shadow, of distance and nearness, simply by expressing justly the relations between the different planes and surfaces with which he is dealing' (Churchill, 1921, quoted in Coombs and Churchill, op. cit., p.68)

We are grateful to David Coombs for his kind assistance with the cataloguing of the present work.  Churchill loved to travel and throughout his busy life always found time to holiday abroad. Of course his paints, brushes and easels accompanied him wherever he went. In particular, he was drawn to the warm climate of the South of France where he found the landscape especially inspiring. This love affair with the Riviera began in 1922 when Churchill and Clementine (who had spent much of her childhood in Dieppe) moved their family to Villa Reve d’Or for six months. They considered buying in the area, but the expense eventually put them off. Churchill would continue to visit France especially during the 1930s, when he was working on the biography of his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough. He was fortunate to have numerous friends who had villas on the Riviera where he would reside during his sojourns. A favourite location was La Dragonnière, at Cap Martin, owned by Harold Harmsworth, later Viscount Rothermere and proprietor of the Daily Mail.

This friendship with one of Britain’s pre-eminent newspaper dynasties was longstanding. Early in Churchill’s career, Rothermere’s older brother, the then owner, supported Churchill vocally in his papers and became a vital ally politically but the two men would later fall out over the ill-fated Gallipoli landings. However, Churchill remained friendly with Rothermere who took control of the business in 1922. Rothermere would employ Churchill to write columns for the Mail when Churchill was in need of money, and indeed when Churchill lost a pet swan in 1932, the paper ran an appeal for its safe return. Rothermere was often concerned for Churchill’s health and famously offered him hefty wagers to reduce his drinking. Politically Rothermere also supported Churchill and through the 1930s, sharing Churchill’s concern that the RAF was in urgent need of rearmament and publicising Churchill’s this through the Mail. 

It is likely that this work was painted in February 1937, when despite Clementine tempting him to join her in St Moritz (she had recently taken up skiing) Churchill opted for the warmth and sunshine of the French Riviera and went to stay with Rothermere at La Dragonnière. Here Churchill spent a restful fortnight delighting in the garden at La Dragonnière where he set up his easel and painted a series of works. He was particularly interested in the effects of light and shadow in his work and in this beautiful and carefully crafted composition, Churchill captures the strength of the Mediterranean sun as it streaks through the leaves casting long shadows from the gnarled and twisting forms of the ancient olive trees that scatter the grove. Churchill has chosen a low perspective, placing the viewer at ground level so we too peer through the stunted and contorted forms towards the orange and cream hues of the Mediterranean houses in the distance leading up the hill.

This work was previously in Clementine's personal collection and has not been seen in public since it was bought by the present owner’s father in the 1960s.