Famous Caricature of Young Winston by Vanity Fair’s Sir Leslie Ward (“Spy”) to go Under the Hammer
The original watercolour of a twenty-five-year-old Winston Churchill drawn by the famous artist Sir Leslie Ward just days before Churchill was first elected to parliament as the Conservative member for Oldham in 1900 is now offered for private sale. It is the first great portrait of Churchill as a young man and is accompanied by a signed letter from the subject confirming his appointment for the sitting.
Undoubtedly the artist most synonymous with Vanity Fair, Sir Leslie Ward signed under the famous “nom-de-brush” (as Churchill liked to say) of “Spy.” Starting in 1873 he contributed hundreds of caricatures of the great and the good to the weekly magazine. The caricatures were accompanied by lighthearted biographies. Initially some individuals were reluctant to be depicted in the magazine. Politicians, however, were a notable exception. As the popularity of the feature grew, individuals sought to be included, and to be characterized by “Spy” became a mark of recognition.
The print of Churchill was published on 27 September 1900, the day after the General Election was called. The accompanying biography stated that the candidate was, “firm in his convictions, and [that] he has all the confidence that may be begotton of the union of Practical Experience with Quick Youth.” After describing Churchill’s exploits as a soldier and author, it concluded: “He can write and fight….For himself, he has hankered after politics since he was a small boy, and it is probable that his every effort, military or literary, has been made with political bent…he is ambitious; he means to get on, and he loves his country. But he can hardly be the slave of any party.” How true that turned out to be!
The painting of Churchill is considered the most valuable of all the original watercolours that appeared in Vanity Fair. The portrait done in pencil and watercolor measures 41 x 28 cms. and is heightened with white, framed, and includes the inscription “Study Winston Churchill.” The original letter signed “Winston S. Churchill” is one page and measures 20 x 13 cms. These are included together with an original of the final printed portrait in Vanity Fair and the accompanying original biography. The provenance has been thoroughly documented.
The work will be sold in a private, invitation-only auction. Interested bidders should contact The Churchill Centre’s Executive Director Lee Pollock via e-mail at: [email protected]
The estimate for the painting is £60,000 to £80,000, but it should be noted that comparable items at the Churchill Sale at Sotheby’s last year, fetched four to six times estimate, due to the exceptional level of interest and demand for Churchill memorabilia and collectibles.
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