Churchill: Sixty Years of Cartoons and Caricatures

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Winston Churchill is back in the news again after Gary Oldman picked up an Oscar for his portrayal of the former British Prime Minister. Churchill also features heavily in the Political Cartoon Collection of Jeffrey Archer sale in London on 14 March, which includes 60 years of cartoons and caricatures of the larger-than-life figure. So numerous and prolific were the cartoons of Churchill throughout his life that David Low once warned, “Don’t imagine that familiar wartime idea of Churchill with his V sign and cigar was all of his own invention.” Here, 10 artists show us their take on one of the most drawn men of the 20th century.

The Political Cartoon Collection of Jeffrey Archer
London | 14 March

Churchill: Sixty Years of Cartoons and Caricatures

  • Frederick Drummond Niblett, ‘The Rt Hon Winston Churchill: when the next election came they would appeal to the electors and defend free trade and to rescue the land of Britain from the Lords’, bodycolour and ink, 1907
    Estimate: £2,000-3,000
    First published inThe Crown: The Court and County Families Newspaper, 1907

    Possibly only the second published caricature of Churchill by any artist (the first, by ‘Spy’, appearing in Vanity Fair in 1900). This caricature is virtually unknown because of the scarcity of surviving copies of The Crown, the very short-lived periodical in which it appeared. The drawing records a speech Winston Churchill gave on 18 May 1907, before 3,000 members of the Scottish Liberal Association at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh.
  • Robert Stuart Sherriffs, ‘Winston Churchill: “How Absurd! Here am I all dressed up to do honour to the greatest Churchill of us all –”. Duke of Marlborough: “– Me Too!”’, pen ink and pencil with bodycolour, 1929
    Estimate: £700-900
    After the 1929 conservative defeat in the general election meant that Winston Churchill no longer was a government minister, he undertook the task to write a biography of his lineal decedent John Churchill, the First Duke of Marlborough. After five years of research the first of four volumes titled Marlborough: His Life and Times, was published in 1933. In the preface of this first volume Churchill writes, “It is my hope to recall this great shade from the past, and not only invest him with his panoply but make him living and intimidate to modern eyes”. Leo Strauss called the result “the greatest historical work written in our century”.

  • Max Beerbohm, ‘Mr Churchill’, Watercolour and pencil, 1943
    Estimate: £6,000-8,000
    By the time this cartoon was published the cigar had become almost inseparable with the image of Winston Churchill. After a first trip to Cuba in 1895, began a habit which resulted in an average of 8-10 cigars a day.

    In February 1945 Churchill, hosted the King Ibn Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia at a luncheon. In his memoirs, Churchill writes of the social occasion, "A number of social problems arose. I had been told that neither smoking nor alcoholic beverages were allowed in the Royal Presence. As I was the host at the luncheon I raised the matter at once, and said to the interpreter that if it was the religion of His Majesty to deprive himself of smoking and alcohol I must point out that my rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them. The King graciously accepted the position."
  • Steven Spurrier, ‘Mr Churchill’s entrance into the House previous to the election of the Speaker (singing for He’s a jolly good fellow)’, pen ink and watercolour with bodycolour, 1945
    Estimate: £1,000-1,500
    First published The Illustrated London News, 18 August 1945

    Three days before this cartoon was published the British Government revealed Radar to the public. Two days before, the Japanese surrendered, and Churchill used the phrase ‘Iron Curtain’ in the House of Commons for the first time when he announced, "it is not impossible that tragedy on a prodigious scale is unfolding itself behind the iron curtain which at the moment divides Europe in twain".
  • Feliks Topolski, ‘Winston Churchill’, Pen ink and pencil, 1948
    Estimate: £1,500-2,000
    Feliks Topolski was a Polish expressionist artist who lived and worked in the United Kingdom, most prolifically during and after the Second World War. He became an official war artist, making a notable trip to Russia in 1941. He believed his role as an artist was to document the major political and social events, as well as personalities that defined the 20th century.  In 1947 he gained British citizenship. During a discussion about the inclusion of the artist’s work in the Tate Collection, one trustee said ‘too many lines. It’s caricature’. Another trustee added ‘We have to draw the line somewhere’, to which a previously silent Augustus John responded ‘Yes, but can you draw the line as well as Topolski?’ The Tate holds over a dozen works by the artist.

    Churchill was a frequented subject of Topolski’s line, perhaps most famous was his study of the politician with the artist inscribing the famous, “we shall fight on the seas and oceans” speech. An incredibly popular lithograph edition of this work was produced by Penguin and is also in this sale.
  • Ernest H. Shepard, ‘Churchill and Attlee’, Pencil, 1940s
    Estimate: £800-1,200
    It has been reported that Churchill once said that his deputy Prime Minister was a “modest man with much to be modest about”. Despite the political insults, Clement Atlee and Winston Churchill had a fruitful working relationship during the wartime coalition, working more closely together on strategy than many members conservative party members of the cabinet. Atlee said of his predecessor, “What a career! What a man! We shall not see his like again.”

  • Bryan De Grineau, ‘I Spy Strangers: Churchill’, pencil with bodycolour, 1950
    Estimate: £1,500-2,000
    First published in The Illustrated London News, 5 August 1950

    The parliamentary phrase "I spy Strangers" was used in the House of Commons as a request that the House sit in private, without members of the public present. It has now been abolished. The cartoon refers to Churchill's request on 17 July 1950 for a secret session to address the state of Britain's defences, including atomic capabilities. On this occasion the Speaker asked for a vote with 295 members voting for secrecy and 296 members voting against.
  • Victor (Vicky) Weisz, ‘Winston Churchill is conquering the House’, pen and ink, 1950s
    Estimate: £800-1,200
    In October 1951 Churchill became Prime minister for the second time. Labour had won the popular vote by 0.8% but was defeated by Churchill’s conservative party who had won the most seats. Churchill’s second government lasted until his resignation from the role in April 1955.

  • Ronald Searle. ‘Art: the British public knowing what it likes ...Consequences of putting Mr Graham Sutherland’s latest portrait on public exhibition’, Pen, ink and monochrome watercolour, 1954
    Estimate: £4,000-6,000
    First published in Punch, 8 December 1954

    In 1954 Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) was commissioned by both Houses of Parliament to paint a full-length portrait of Winston Churchill, to celebrate his 80th birthday. The completed portrait was presented to Churchill at a ceremony in Westminster Hall on 30 November 1954 and has become one of the most famous cases of a subject disliking their painting. At the unveiling, Churchill wryly described it as, ‘an outstanding example of modern art’, later complaining that it made him ‘look half-witted’. 
  • Nicholas Garland,‘Some Chicken...’pen and ink with bodycolour and collaged paper, 1967
    Estimate: £1,000-1,500
    First published in the Daily Telegraph, 26 April 1967

    Churchill once said of cartoonists: 'Just as eels are supposed to get used to skinning, so politicians get used to being caricatured. In fact, by a strange trait in human nature they even get to like it. If we must confess it, they are quite offended and downcast when the cartoons stop. They wonder what has gone wrong, they wonder what they have done amiss. They fear old age and obsolescence are creeping upon them. They murmur: "We are not mauled and maltreated as we used to be." The great days are ended.'
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