It was the summer of 1927. King George V was in Scotland at his northern home, Balmoral Castle. Staying with him for a few days was his Finance Minister (or “Chancellor of the Exchequer”). While most visitors enjoyed the outdoor life of the Scottish countryside, during this visit the minister spent much of his time indoors with canvas, oils and brushes.
The king had an idea. He was sponsoring a charity auction in the neighbourhood of the castle, and was on the lookout for good items for the sale. Now he knew where he could get something that would raise a fair price. “Minister, how would you like to donate your painting to the local charity?” Although by no means an authoritarian monarch, a request from the king was as good as a command, and duly the painting was sold to the highest bidder, raising a sum equivalent to around $10,000 today.
Shortly afterwards the Chancellor joked in a letter to the king’s private secretary that maybe he should sell some more paintings to raise funds to reduce the national debt. More than sixty years later the story was included in a book about her father’s paintings by the youngest daughter of Sir Winston Churchill.
Churchill’s paintings (more than five hundred of them over a forty year period) were suited to far more than charity auctions. From Paris galleries to Royal Academy exhibitions in London his works were given honoured place – frequently submitted and displayed under pseudonyms to avoid any favouritism.
How good was he? Maybe we can assess that by the fact that one leading expert almost succeeded in have a Churchill painting excluded from the judging of a prominent amateur competition because, he said, although it was anonymous it was so easily identifiable as having been painted by a professional!
Churchill first took up his hobby only at the age of forty, when he was out of office with more time on his hands, and needed some form of therapeutic relaxation. From then onwards, almost wherever he went, either on private or public business, his artist’s kit went with him. In the 1950s an exhibition of more than fifty of his works toured the world. Today there still exist hundreds of his impressions of places he visited, many of them now on display at Chartwell Manor, his former country home which is in the care of the National Trust and open to the public.
Our web site the-churchill-file.co.uk explores the career of this remarkably talented human being and provides links to books on varied aspects of Churchill’s life and work, including many available from our own stock.