Edwina Sandys, Winston Churchill: A Passion for Painting, Donning, 2015, 128 pages, $49.95. ISBN 978–1681840109
What I love about this book is the love within it. Edwina Sandys is not only a granddaughter of Sir Winston, she is herself a professional artist. “People frequently ask me if my grandfather was a good painter,” she recalls. “I always answer emphatically ‘YES!’ He was good because he painted the things he loved.”
We have had important books about Churchill as a painter before, most notably those by his daughter Mary, his granddaughter-in-law Minnie Churchill, and the leading authority on Churchill canvasses David Coombs. This newest volume must be considered another essential element in the library about Churchill the artist.
The impetus for Winston Churchill: A Passion for Painting was a wonderful exhibit of Churchill canvasses put on with the support of the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, and displayed at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis. Timothy Riley, paintings curator at Fulton, put the exhibit together and provides the information about each painting reproduced in this book. An interesting detail includes a list of all the exhibits each canvas has appeared in before.
Boris Johnson, formerly the Mayor of London and now Foreign Secretary, provides an introduction in which he notes that when it came to painting, Churchill “wasn’t fooling around.” “You can feel the release and the enthusiasm with which he has splodged that pigment on,” Johnson writes, “he sets out to please and reward the viewer, and he succeeds.”
But the heart and soul of this book, apart from the handsomely presented reproductions of the paintings, is Edwina’s essay about her memories of her grandfather and her appreciation as an artist about what painting meant to him.
“There was art in Churchill’s politics, but no politics in his art,” Edwina observes. “Unashamedly, he painted for pure pleasure, channelling his joie de vivre onto the canvas.”
One of Churchill’s best and most beloved paintings is Bottlescape, which was done in 1926 and now hangs permanently in the dining room at Chartwell. For Edwina, this “one painting sums up his Love of Life.” She appreciated it so much that she produced an homage by painting a depiction of her grandfather working at the original painting. It is reproduced here facing its muse.
“Happy are the painters!” Churchill famously enthused. That spirit he passed onto his granddaughter, and the warmth is felt on every page of this beautiful book.
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