Sir Winston Churchill’s first painting after the end of the Second World War, Villa on the Nivelle, is to be sold at auction for the first time.
By Laura Roberts
THE TELEGRAPH, 18 April 2011 – He created Villa on the Nivelle, during a brief pause in British politics; after the general election on July 5, 1945, and before the result was announced on July 26 when he was unexpectedly defeated by Labour.
The wartime Prime Minister had taken a short holiday with his wife Clementine to the Basque region of France at the Chateau de Bordaberry, as the guest of Brigadier-General Brutinel.
Despite being a keen artist he painted only once in almost five years from Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 until the end of the war.
He was persuaded to take up his paintbrush again by fellow chateau guest Margaret Nairn, the wife of the British Consul in Bordeaux Bryce Nairn, who had previously been a professional painter.
A rare photograph documents him in the middle of painting the work. It will be sold at Christie’s in London on May 26 and is expected to fetch up to £300,000.
Churchill painted only once during the Second World War following a ten-day conference in Casablanca, Morocco in January 1943. He persuaded President Roosevelt to join him on a short visit to Marrakech, his only holiday during the conflict. He later gave A view of Marrakech, with the tower of Katoubia mosque to Roosevelt as a memento.
Historian Andrew Roberts said: “Painting was something that he discovered at the time of the Dardanelles disaster [also known as the Battle of Gallipoli] when he was at his lowest ebb. It gave him solace.
“We are used to the adventurous side of Churchill. This contemplative side of Churchill shows his multifarious personality.”
“It came as a surprise to him that he lost the election. But he was determined to honour the will of the electorate.”
The Labour victory of July 1945 was announced while Churchill was at the Potsdam conference with Henry Truman and Josef Stalin. Churchill was re-elected Prime Minister in 1951.
Churchill took up painting at the relatively late age of 40. It played an increasingly important role in his life, driving away periods of depression that he referred to as “Black Dog”.
In the January 1946 issue of Life magazine he said: “There is no subject on which I feel more humble or yet at the same time more natural.”
He added: “When I get to heaven I intend to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting and so get to the bottom of the subject.”
In 2007 a painting of Churchill’s home, Chartwell Landscape with Sheep, was sold for a record £1million.
Modest about his artistic talent, in 1947 he submitted two pictures under the name of “David Winter” to be considered for the Royal Academy summer exhibition. Both were accepted and soon after, Mr Winter, now revealed to be Churchill, was elected an “Honorary Academician Extraordinary”.