'This joyful painting tells me all I need to know of my grandfather’s feelings for my grandmother.'
Rupert Soames, grandson of Winston Churchill, on Clementine Churchill
‘This joyful painting tells me all I need to know of my grandfather’s feelings for my grandmother. It tells me he loved her and was proud of her; admired her mind, body and spirit; respected her; saw her as his partner in life’s great adventure.
‘It says that, after more than 45 years of marriage, two World Wars and five years as Prime Minister, Winston Churchill loved one thing above all else: to see his wife smiling and happy .’
Rupert Soames is Winston Churchill’s grandson and chief executive of Serco Group plc.
John McEwen on Churchill the artist
Churchill did not enter a picture gallery until taken by his doctor to the National Gallery in 1915. It coincided with his resignation as First Lord of the Admiralty after the Dardanelles disaster, following which the Churchills retired to Hoe Farm in Surrey, where his sister-in-law came to stay and introduced him to watercolour painting. He soon turned to the bolder medium of oil on canvas.
David Cannadine writes in Churchill: The Statesman as Artist: ‘One of the reasons Churchill… developed so many hobbies… was to hold the misery and despair brought on by the “black dog” at bay.’ In Churchill: Walking with Destiny (2018), Andrew Roberts questions this contention.
Whatever, in his bestselling Painting as a Pastime, Churchill wrote: ‘Happy are the painters for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep company to the end, or almost to the end, of the day’ – which proved true for him.
This painting, based on a photograph, is one of his few portraits; it shows his wife launching Britain’s new aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable in 1940. She was the only woman outside the Royal Family to have launched two aircraft carriers, the second being HMS Hermes in 1953, which would later serve as the flagship of the British Forces in the Falklands War.
Churchill was, uniquely, elected Honorary Academician Extraordinary. His 1959 retrospective at Burlington House drew an attendance of 140,000, a total surpassed only by Leonardo.
That year, his friend Lord Beaverbrook offered him £250,000 for all his available pictures. ‘When you’re gone, they won’t be worth two shillings apiece,’ Beaverbrook joshed.
In 2014, two were sold for more than £1 million each.
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