Winston Churchill - His Life & His Paintings
Winston Churchill (1874-1965), British politician and prime minister of the United Kingdom (1940-1945, 1951-1955), widely regarded as the greatest British leader of the 20th century. Churchill is celebrated for his leadership during World War II (1939-1945). His courage, decisiveness, political experience, and enormous vitality enabled him to lead his country through the war, one of the most desperate struggles in British history.
Winston Churchill's public life extended from the reign of Queen Victoria in the late 19th century to the Cold War. During this long political career, Churchill held every important cabinet office in the British government, except foreign minister. Churchill was also known for the many books on British history and politics he wrote throughout his lifetime. His command of the English language not only made him a great orator but earned him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1953.
As prime minister of Britain during World War II, Churchill roused the British to stand against Nazi Germany. The sight of Churchill, with his cigar and two fingers raised in a "V for victory" salute, inspired Britons to rise to what he called "their finest hour."
Churchill was named by Time Magazine as one of the most important people of the 20th century, and was an accomplished and prolific artist. An important milestone in the career of Churchill the painter was the sudden and fortuitous appearance in his life of Walter Sickert. Their friendship was to prove of great importance to Winston as a painter.
Churchill began painting in his 40's following a personal and political disaster, The Dardanelles Campaign in 1915. He is quoted as telling the painter Sir John Rothenstein: "If it weren't for painting, I couldn't live; I couldn't bear the strain of things." In 1948, he was bestowed the prestigious recognition of Honorary Academician Extraordinary by the Royal Academy of Arts. He painted roughly 500 artworks, approximately 350 which are housed in Churchill's garden Studio at Chartwell. Only a few artworks were given to friends and remain in private collections.
Sir Winston Churchill's paintings are a collection of scenes that were captured during his lifetime. They show the old Surrey farmhouse where he began to paint. They also show scenes form England, Scotland, many views of the French Riviera, the Italian Alps, and Morocco. He also captured scenes from his vacations in Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, and the United States. Through the miracle of modern fine art publishing, a limited number of Churchill's fine art paintings are now be accessible to Churchill enthusiasts and fine art collectors around the world. Some works by Churchill can be found in the permanent collections of the following museums:
- The Royal Academy, London
- Tate Gallery, London
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
- The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
- Dallas Museum of Art
- Museum of Art Sao Paolo, Brazil
Churchill, a gifted painter and writer, wrote Painting as a Pastime. "Painting is complete as a distraction. I know of nothing which, without exhausting the body, more entirely absorbs the mind. Whatever the worries of the hour or the threats of the future, once the picture has begun to flow along, there is no room for them in the mental screen. They pass out into shadow and darkness. All one's mental light, such as it is, becomes concentrated on the task. Time stands respectfully aside, and it is only after many hesitations that luncheon knocks gruffly at the door. When I have had to stand up on parade, or even, I regret to say, in church, for half an hour at a time, I have always felt that the erect position is not natural to man, has only been painfully acquired, and is only with fatigue and difficulty maintained. But no one who is fond of painting finds the slightest inconvenience, as long as the interest holds, in standing to paint for three or four hours at a stretch". [Excerpted from Painting as a Pastime by Winston Churchill. © 1932 Winston S. Churchill]
Today some Britons regard Churchill as a disturbing emblem of the old regime of class privilege and colonial empire. Others admire his efforts to adapt the British tradition of self-government, liberty, civility, and the rule of law to a new world made by democracy and science in the 20th century. British memorials to Churchill include the establishment of Churchill College at Cambridge University, which houses Churchill's papers, and a prominent statue across from the Houses of Parliament in London. His story is told in the official biography begun by his son Randolph and completed by Martin Gilbert—the longest biography ever written about anyone. Millions have toured his birthplace at Blenheim Palace, his house at Chartwell, or the Cabinet War Rooms in London—places that evoke his memory and give visitors a sense of the man.
Chartwell, in Kent, England, was the home of British prime minister Winston Churchill from 1922 until Churchill's death in 1965. The house was Churchill's headquarters during the 1930s when he wrote prolifically.