Friday, November 30, 2007

Prime Painter

He would paint on the beaches, he would paint on the landing grounds, he would paint in the fields and in the streets, he would paint in the hills; he would never surrender his brush regardless of the historical events conspiring against him. Please pardon the paraphrase, but Winston Churchill may be the greatest painter and lover of art of all modern world leaders. Born on this date in 1874, the Prime Minister of England who helped keep England together through the darkest days of The Blitz and brought it back into the light of victory after World War II painted as a means of therapy, an escape from the ugliness all around him (a 1946 photo of him painting appears above). I’ve always found it ironic that both Churchill and Adolf Hitler painted. Hitler, of course, becomes the most famous frustrated painter ever, redirecting his creativity into the destruction of the world. Churchill, by contrast, finds solace and meaning in art, using it to recharge himself in the battle against the forces of evil.

Prices for Churchill’s paintings, 500 of which are known to exist, rise every year. In December 2006, his View of Tinherir (above, from 1951) sold for 600,000 British pounds. "They are not worth it,” Churchill said with a laugh when asked if his paintings would ever sell. “They are only of interest in having been painted by a notorious character!” Obviously, Churchill’s fame plays a role in the pricing, but the prices for the far more notorious Fuhrer’s work have never equaled those of Churchill’s. Churchill loved to travel to North Africa and paint in the Moroccan light, which can be seen in his View of Tinherir. Although of less than museum quality, there is a painterly quality to Churchill’s work that makes it more than the work of a rank amateur.

Amateur, of course, comes from the Latin root “amare” (“to love”). Churchill’s painting comes from love rather than any artistic ambition. Chartwell, Landscape With Sheep (above, from the 1940s) continues the long love affair with the pastoral landscape of British art going back to Constable and Turner. Chartwell, Landscape with Sheep actually sold for 1 million British pounds in July 2007, setting a new record for a price paid for one of Churchill’s works, which would probably have amused the artist to no end. "When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting, and so get to the bottom of the subject," Churchill once said. If there’s an afterlife, I’m sure he’s spending it with a brush in his hand.

1 comment:

Nelle said...

I like your paraphrasing of Churchill at the beginning. I did not know that he painted, and painted well for an amateur.
No doubt he would be enjoying a good laugh in the afterlife with the prices being paid for his works.