ARTICLE ABSTRACT BY TOM REINEHR
“Churchill: A portrait of the statesman as a young Artist,” by Merry Alberigi, British Heritage, October/November 1998,6 pages, 7 illustrations, 6 in color, $4.99 on newsstands.
The author, who chaired the 1990 and 1993 Churchill Conferences, became fascinated with Churchill’s painting over ten years ago, and has interviewed Churchill’s family and associates, including three former bodyguards who were responsible for setting up his easels. This past year she completed her master’s thesis on Churchill as a Painter. It was awarded second place in the California State University Student Research Competition.
Churchill took up painting as a hobby when he was out of office and bored in 1915. This began a “career” which spanned over forty years and was a source of great joy. Painting, he said, is “a wonderful new world of thought and craft,” an occupation for every idle hour, an unceasing voyage of entrancing discovery.” As in everything he did, he took no half measures and was quite prolific, producing over 500 oil paintings. His friend Paul Maze once told him to “Paint like you write or speak,” and he did so.
Churchill’s subjects were almost always peaceful, often bathed in sunlight. He painted in over twelve countries, but most often in France and England, preferring landscapes, particularly the Mediterranean. Churchill painted mainly in the Impressionist style. As in other arenas, he learned quickly. Contemporary artist friends—Sir John Lavery, Walter Sickert, Sir Oswald Birley, Sir Paul Maze, and Sir William Nicolson—influenced his early work. His experimentation with their styles led a reviewer to comment that Churchill’s artistic maturation was “not a matter of straight progress but of the inspiration of the moment.” He also copied the works of artists that he liked, including Charles Daubigny, who influenced some of WSCs early paintings.
Walter Sickert encouraged Churchill to copy the works of John Singer Sargent, who became another strong influence. Later in his career, he used compositions by Monet and Cezanne as starting points for his own work. Critic John London praised his work: “At least a dozen of [Churchill’s] pictures will stand against any of the Impressionists.”
Merry Alberigi’s article looks at Churchill from a different perspective from most, purposely ignoring his other contributions to humanity. It is a refreshing perspective on a man who has been studied in many ways. Her preference as a title, “Sir Winston Churchill and the Impressionists,” is more descriptive of the article than the one actually chosen. I hope she will be able to write at greater length on this fascinating subject.
Note: For more on Churchill as Painter, see pages 32-36.
Mr. Reinehr, of Avondale, Arizona, will be assisting John Plumpton in producing article abstracts, “Inside the Journals,” in future issues.
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