• Press release
  • |
  • London
  • |
  • For immediate release
  • |
  • 26 May 2021

'CHURCHILL AND HIS ARTISTIC ALLIES'

SELLING EXHIBITION AT CHRISTIE'S LONDON GALLERIES FROM 1 TO 16 JUNE 2021

• The exhibition situates the work of Sir Winston Churchill alongside the three artists he considered close friends and mentors, whose influence can clearly be seen in his work
• Sir Winston Churchill’s The Atlas Mountains from Marrakech (circa 1949), was gifted to Antonio Giraudier, a Cuban businessman who stocked Churchill’s humidor with cigars for almost 20 years
• Sir Winston Churchill’s Chartwell Landscape with Sheep (circa 1946) will be offered in the 20th and 21st Century Evening Sale on 30 June, from the collection of A. Jerrold Perenchio and on view as part of the exhibition
• Further highlights include Sir John Lavery’s Played!!, Sir William Nicholson’s Pink Cattleyas and Walter Richard Sickert’s Rialto Bridge

Sir Winston Churchill, The Atlas Mountains from Marrakech (circa 1949)

London – ‘Churchill and his Artistic Allies’ is an exhibition of works by Sir Winston Churchill and the three artists who were most influential in his development as a painter: Sir John Lavery, Sir William Nicholson and Walter Richard Sickert. Churchill first picked up a paintbrush in June 1915, aged 40, initially as a means of diversion and escapism from the pressures of politics, following his resignation as First Lord of the Admiralty after the unsuccessful Dardanelles campaign. Encouraged firstly by Hazel Lavery, the wife of Sir John Lavery, painting proved to be one of the greatest pleasures of Churchill’s life, a passion which he was to pursue with unyielding enthusiasm until his passing in 1965.

Sir John Lavery, Played!! (1885) and Walter Richard Sickert, The Rialto Bridge (circa 1901)

Sir John Lavery was perhaps the most significant influence on Churchill’s painting. It was with Lavery that he began his education as an artist, painting side by side in his studio nearby. Lavery taught Churchill about the importance of light and helped him to perfect the depiction of water – using Post-Impressionistic techniques to successfully capture reflections and the dapple of light, the striking effects of which can be seen in some of Churchill’s finest works. Lavery was also first to introduce Churchill to painting in both the South of France and North Africa, in particular Morocco, where both were struck by the brilliance of light and its effect on the landscape. Both locations became of significant importance to Churchill’s painting and are today the subjects of some of his most celebrated works. The Atlas Mountains from Marrakech (circa 1949) marries together Churchill’s two great passions – painting and cigars. One of the masterpieces within his oeuvre, Churchill gifted this magnificent painting to Antonio Giraudier, a Cuban businessman who supplied him with cigars for almost 20 years. Lavery’s Played!! (1885) is a naturalistic portrayal of a young woman playing tennis, the movement of the game of tennis captured in a plein-air scene that marked a departure in Lavery’s practice. 

Walter Richard Sickert, who had been a childhood friend of Churchill’s wife, Clementine, became another influential figure in Churchill’s developments as a painter. They first met in 1927 and became close friends. Although their choice of subject matter was often quite different, Sickert, helped with the development of new painting techniques, including camaieu, the preparation of canvases through the under-painting of several layers, and the process of squaring up and enlarging images for transfer to larger scale canvases. The Rialto Bridge (circa 1901), a night scene in Venice of the bridge seen from the Grand Canal demonstrates the very technique that would inspire Churchill’s future paintings.

Sir William Nicholson, Pink Cattleyas (1931) and Sir Winston Churchill, Orchids (1948)

The final in the trio of allies is Sir William Nicholson. Over a period of many months during 1933, Nicholson lived at Churchill’s home, Chartwell Manor. While there, he imparted to Churchill his love of the still life, his interest in and mastery with depicting contrasting surfaces, and his harmonious and carefully balanced palette, the influence of which we can see in Churchill’s work from this period onwards. Painted in 1931, Pink Cattleyas was painted on Sir William Nicholson’s trip to South Africa while he was visiting his wife’s parents, Sir Lionel and Lady Phillips. These tropical plants originated in South America, and their frilled, exotic flowers provided Nicholson with a bold yet delicate subject which evidently captured his attention.  Nicholson has positioned them in a liqueur glass which sits on a moulded blue glass plate, behind which is a small glass ashtray. This simple and elegant composition, in which the small number of objects are set against an unadorned background, typifies Nicholson’s paintings of the early 1930s. This is presented alongside a still life entitled Orchids, created by Sir Winston Churchill in 1948.

Sir Winston Churchill, Chartwell Landscape with Sheep (circa 1946: estimate: £2,000,000-3,000,000)

Chartwell Manor was characterised by the Churchill’s generosity and boundless hospitality. It was frequently full of family members, friends and Churchill’s colleagues, with luminaries, such as T.E. Lawrence, Charlie Chaplin and his three artistic allies: Sir John Lavery, Sir William Nicholson and Walter Richard Sickert amongst regular guests. Chartwell symbolised for Churchill a refuge and safe haven from the incredible pressures of his professional life, as well as representing an English Arcadia. Chartwell Landscape with Sheep (circa 1946) is one of only four known works that depicts the panoramic views from the house and grounds, with the rolling hills of Kent beyond, with the other three works remaining in the collection of the National Trust and the Churchill family.

Spanning the first half of the 20th Century, the paintings in this exhibition offer an insight into the work of this group of important British artists. Tracking the influences of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism on their work, and in turn their impact on the painting of Churchill.

About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvador Mundi, 2017), for a 20th century artwork (Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 2022) and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019). Christie's is also recognised as a reference for prestigious single owner collections, having auctioned 8 of the 10 most important collections in history.

Christie’s Private Sales offers a seamless service for buying and selling art, jewellery and watches outside of the auction calendar, working exclusively with Christie’s specialists at a client’s individual pace.

Recent innovations at Christie’s include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital work of art ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Everydays, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the business of art, including use of hologram technology to tour life-size 3D objects around the world, and the the creation of viewing and bidding experiences that integrate augmented reality, global livestreaming, buy-now channels, and hybrid sales formats. 

Christie’s is dedicated to advancing responsible culture throughout its business and communities worldwide, including achieving sustainability through net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and actively using its platform in the art world to amplify under-represented voices and support positive change.

Browse, bid, discover, and join us for the best of art and luxury at: www.christies.com or by downloading Christie’s apps. The COVID-related re-opening status of our global locations is available here.