Sir Winston Churchill
1874-1965 | British
Chapel Saint-Cassien, Cannes
Initialed "WSC" (lower right)Oil on canvas
Widely regarded among the most influential and inspirational statesmen of all time, Winston Churchill was not only a revered politician but also a talented painter with over 40 years of practice. Chapel Saint-Cassien, Cannes is exemplary of his output, reflecting his skillful command of both light and color. The subject is the 17th-century chapel in Saint Cassien in the south of France, a site that was severely damaged during World War II less than ten years after Churchill composed this scene. Churchill captures it in its original state, nestled within the rolling hills of the French Riviera at one with the natural landscape.
Through a poignant use of light and shadow, the artist imbues the work with a sense of peaceful tranquility reflective of his own life at the time of its painting. It was composed during the 1930s, a time when Churchill was relatively free from political pressures and responsibilities. Known as his "wilderness years," Churchill was out of office and would remain so from 1929 until the beginning of the Second World War. He used the time to travel extensively, taking along his easel and paints wherever he went and producing a remarkably rich body of work.
Chapel Saint-Cassien, Cannes represents the very best of his output from this period. Churchill embraces a bold and progressive palette, effectively reflecting the warm, sun-drenched landscape of the south of France. Verdant greens dominate, enhanced by touches of yellows, purples, oranges and blues that reveal an impressionist influence on the painter. His broad, painterly brushwork lends a dynamism to the otherwise meditative scene, vividly capturing the life and spirit of the region.
Painting was a dominating passion for Churchill in the last half of his life. There is little evidence that he had any artistic training prior to his 40s. In fact, his wife Clementine mentioned at one point that before he began painting, Churchill had hardly visited an art museum, much less created art. Churchill first began painting following a personal and political disaster, the Dardanelles campaign, in 1915. He is quoted as telling the painter Sir John Rothenstein: “If it weren’t for painting, I couldn’t live; I couldn’t bear the strain of things.”
In 1948, he was bestowed the prestigious recognition of Honorary Academician Extraordinary by the Royal Academy of Arts. He painted roughly 500 works, approximately 350 of which are housed in Churchill’s garden studio at Chartwell. Only a few others were given to friends and remain in private collections.
Painted in the 1930s
Canvas: 20 1/4" high x 24 1/8" wide
Frame: 25 1/4" high x 29 1/8" wide
New York World's Fair, for Hallmarks "People to People" exhibit, April - October 1964
New York World's Fair, for Hallmarks "People to People" exhibit, April - October 1965
London, M. Knoedler & Co, Painting as a Pastime: Sir Winston Churchill, May - June 1977, no. 26
Churchill: His Paintings, London, 1967, by D. Coombs, p. 172, no. 244 (illustrated)
Sir Winston Churchill: His Life and His Paintings, Lyme Regis, 2011, D. Coombs and M.S. Churchill, p. 158, 253, no. C244, fig. 311
Winston Churchill: Painting on the French Riviera, London, 2020, by P. Rafferty, p. 122 (illustrated)
Mrs Duncan Sandys, and by descent to The Hon. Edwina Sandys
Mrs Piers Dixon, London
Mr F. Bartlett Watt, and by descent to Mrs Lucienne Watt
M.S. Rau, New Orleans