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Painting as a Pastime – The Last Canvas

Finest Hour 178, Fall 2018

Page 54


For the last fifteen years of his life, Winston Churchill was protected by his bodyguard Sergeant Edmund Murray. One of Murray’s responsibilities was to serve as custodian of Churchill’s painting equipment and to set up these materials wherever they might be travelling. Yet Chartwell always remained Churchill’s favorite place to be and to paint. On the grounds, Churchill had no more preferred place to meditate than his beloved goldfish pool. One of his most famous paintings The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell was done at some point in the 1930s and became a treasured possession of his daughter Mary.

Fittingly, Churchill’s final painting is also an image of the goldfish pool. Less well known than the first, since it has never before been exhibited or reproduced, this second goldfish painting was done in 1962 when Churchill was eighty-seven. In his catalogue of Churchill paintings, David Coombs assigns it the number C 544.

Unlike many of Churchill’s landscapes at Chartwell, this painting is unusual in zooming right into the water, taking in the luscious foliage along the waterside. It is an exemplary essay in tonality and near-abstraction, combining multiple hues of greens and browns to striking effect with the Golden Orfe brought to life through vivid flashes of orange impasto.

Murray was a painter himself, and for the Churchills’ fiftieth wedding anniversary he made a painting of the Rialto Bridge and Grand Canal in Venice, one of the cities that Winston and Clementine visited on their honeymoon in 1908. Churchill enjoyed it so much that he had the painting displayed at his Chartwell studio. It was the only canvas on display there not done by himself. In turn Churchill gave his own final painting to Murray. It will go up for auction this November at Sotheby’s in London.

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