“Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill’s name can almost synonymously be used with the words ” great political leader”, “British war hero”, and “Nobel Prize winner.”
Now, you can add “painter” to that list. Sir Winston Churchill, who was a two time former British Prime Minister (1940-1945, 1951-1955), helped defeat Nazi Germany during World War II, and became a Nobel Prize winner was also an accomplished artist.
“He took his paint box with him where ever he went,” explained Duncan Sandys. “It’s [ the paintings] are almost his travels in Britain and outside [ the country]. It’s more external scenes. A good number of landscapes, and a good number of gardens….places that fascinated him.”
Sandys would know. Sir Winston Churchill was his great grandfather.
“He never took painting very seriously,” Sandys said. “But they’re [the paintings] are beautiful. Do they stand out against old master pieces? No. But they weren’t intended to.”
According to Sandys, Churchill first picked up a paint brush back in 1915, following the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign in the midst of World War I, in which thousands of Allied soldiers died while invading the former Ottoman Empire. After which Churchill left political office.
“He was an emotional, political, and social wreck,” recounted Sandys. “By all accounts that I’ve read, he was impossible to live with and very bitter towards old colleagues. But what brought him out was painting. He started in the garden of the home …. 45 years later is when he put down his brushes.”
As Churchill wrote, “If it weren’t for painting I could not live. I couldn’t bear the strain of things.”
Forty five years, and 500 paintings later. What Churchill originally saw as “just a hobby”, may have been his saving grace that helped him redefine his outlook on life and relaunch him in to the political arena in what would become his finest hour.
“Most of the paintings … 300 of them … were done in the 1930’s,” said Sandys. ” It gave him a heightened sense of awareness, an accurate memory, and the ability to conceptualize ….. this is when he wrote most of his speeches.”
Skills that also allowed him to become a more effective leader, and stay one step ahead of Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany.
In the words of esteemed art historian Ernst Gombrich – “his painting may have helped to save Western civilization.”
Now, some of Churchill’s artwork will be on display in LaGrange. For one week, at least six of his paintings, plus never-before-seen photos and memorabilia of Churchill’s will be showcased at the Hills and Dales Estate. The event is a preview to a larger exhibit called ” The Art of Diplomacy: Winston Churchill and the Pursuit of Painting” which will open October 3rd at the Millennium Gate Museum in Atlanta.
The exhibit is in honor of the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death on January 24, 1965. But it also showcases Churchill’s close ties to the state of Georgia. His ancestor, John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, trained General James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, in military tactics. Churchill himself lectured and toured in Georgia in 1932. According to Sandys, his Great Aunt Mary also toured Fort Oglethorpe in 1943. His Great Aunt Sarah was married on Sea Island, Georgia; as was Sandys.
“This is very much fitting our mission to share Georgia’s connectivity with the world,” said Rodney Cook, the National Monuments Foundation President. “It’s happening and it’s going to be spectacular. We’re very excited about it.”
“He wasn’t just a painter,” said Sandys. “He was a prolific painter.”
The exhibition will be at the Hills & Dales Estate Visitor Center from Aug. 2 - Aug. 10. It is free and open to the public.