Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, O.M., R.A. (1874-1965)
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Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, O.M., R.A. (1874-1965)

Woodland scene near Mimizan

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, O.M., R.A. (1874-1965)
Woodland scene near Mimizan
signed with initials 'WSC' (lower left)
oil on canvas
24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm.)
A gift from the artist to Jock Colville, Reading in 1954, and by descent.
D. Coombs, Churchill: his paintings, London, 1967, p. 114, no. 65, illustrated.
D. Coombs with M. Churchill, Sir Winston Churchill's His Life and His Paintings, London, 2011, pp. 52, 250, no. C65, illustrated.
New York, New York World's Fair, April - October 1965, catalogue not traced.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

For Winston Churchill the 1920s were an especially productive period as a painter, notably in France when he was a guest at the Woolsack in Mimizan on Les Landes, near Bordeaux; this was the French hunting lodge of his friend Bendor, Duke of Westminster, who he had met at the beginning of the century during the Boer War.

Mimizan was a substantial estate comprising extensive woodland and a large lake, all attractive to herds of deer and particularly wild boars: fierce animals that the Duke delighted to hunt – with equivalent bravery. In these adventures he would be joined by Churchill, always happy on a horse and never more so than with tumultuous physical action in prospect.

For Churchill, however, the visits to Mimizan were to have another purpose, certainly not subsidiary but parallel – the attractions of the densely-wooded landscape that enveloped the estate. Trees had always interested Churchill the painter and no where more acutely than at Mimizan, which was to lead to a long series of paintings – of which this is an especially successful example.

The Duke entertained lavishly and widely, his guests including his close friend Coco Chanel, as well as Charlie Chaplin and Salvador Dalí. On at least one occasion, another of Churchill's friends, the painter Sir John Lavery was among the Duke's party at Mimizan. It was in Lavery's studio at the end of the Great War that Churchill went to learn and to work, when he was able to make the time.

Lavery did his best to encourage Churchill to paint confidently and naturally, without giving way to his habitual inclination to change his mind always with the intention of improving, so he thought, his initial efforts with a brush. This painting shows how successful Churchill could be when painting directly, free of this burden of inhibition.

That Churchill gave the picture to Jock Colville has significance beyond the gift. Colville was a young Civil Servant who came into Churchill's life in 1940 when the latter succeeded Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister. Colville was already working as a Private Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office and was at first wary of his new and restlessly dynamic master, 40 years his senior. Soon, however, this grew into feelings of great mutual trust and friendship between the two men. Following a period of war service as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, Colville returned to serve Churchill as a Private Secretary then and in later years, when Prime Minister.

After Colville's marriage in 1948, he and his wife became close and trusted friends not only of Winston and his wife Clementine, but of their children, especially their youngest daughter, Mary Soames.

After Churchill's retirement in 1955, he discussed with Colville his idea of founding a new educational institution with a scientific and technology bias. This was to become Churchill College at Cambridge University, for which Colville was principally instrumental in raising the funds - as a national and commonwealth memorial to his friend.

We are very grateful to David Coombs for preparing this catalogue entry.

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