(Winston Churchill, 1921, quoted in David Coombs and Minnie S. Churchill, Sir Winston Churchill His Life and His Paintings, Ware House Publishing, Lyme Regis, 2011, p.86).
Marrakech was one of Churchill’s favourite winter painting locations. Fascinated by the exotic, desert landscape and the variety of subjects that presented themselves, as well as the climate, colour and light, Churchill’s Moroccan paintings can be counted amongst the most successful works that he ever produced.
Churchill had first written of his love for Morocco in a 1936 article for The Daily Mail. Here he recounted how quickly he had fallen under the spell of what was then a French colony: 'Morocco was to me a revelation. Reading about the Moroccan question in the newspapers or official documents affords not the slightest impression of the charm and value of this splendid territory.' Later in the same article he confessed himself 'captivated by Marrakech. Here in these spacious palm groves rising from the desert the traveller can be sure of perennial sunshine, of every comfort and diversion, and can contemplate with ceaseless satisfaction the stately and snow-clad panorama of the Atlas Mountains. The sun is brilliant and warm but not scorching; the air crisp, bracing but without being chilly; the days bright, the nights cool and fresh.'
Such was the draw of Morocco as a painting location that Churchill was prompted to attempt his one and only war-time painting here in the immediate aftermath of the Casablanca Conference of 1943 (Tower of the Katoubia Mosque, Private Collection). Following the ten-day conference Roosevelt was intent on returning immediately to America while Churchill planned to spend a few days in Marrakech before continuing his month-long tour of the Middle East. Eager that his friend and fellow statesman should accompany him to the 'Paris of the Sahara', Churchill pleaded, 'You cannot come all this way to North Africa without seeing Marrakech... Let us spend two days there. I must be with you when you see the sun set on the Atlas Mountains' (Churchill, 1959, The Second World War, Pimlico, London, 2002, p.650). Soon after their arrival Churchill insisted that Roosevelt accompany him up the tower of the villa to look over Marrakech as the sun went down. Roosevelt was lifted from his wheelchair and carried up the winding stairs to the roof-top. Reclining on a divan the American was so taken by the scene he said to Churchill, 'I feel like a sultan: you may kiss my hand, my dear.' In his diary Churchill's doctor recorded, 'We stood gazing at the purple hills, where the light was changing every minute. "It's the most lovely spot in the world" the PM murmured' (quoted in Celia Sandys, Chasing Churchill: The Travels of Winston Churchill, Harper Collins, London, 2003, p.106).
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