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Still Life, Silver at Chartwell

Still Life, Silver at Chartwell
signed with initials 'W.S.C.' (lower left)
oil on canvas-board
14 x 19 3/4 in. (35.6 x 50.2 cm.)
Painted in the 1930s.
A gift from the artist to Sir Anthony Eden, The Earl of Avon.
The Countess of Avon.
D. Coombs, Churchill: His Paintings, London, 1967, p. 145, no. 173, illustrated.
D. Sutton (ed.), 'A Statesman's Collection', Apollo Magazine, June 1969, p. 464, fig. 11, as 'Still-life of silver'.
Exhibition catalogue, Painting as a Pastime: Winston Churchill his life as a painter, London, Sotheby's, 1998, p. 134, no. 63.
M. Soames, Winston Churchill: His Life As A Painter, London, 1990, pp. 8, 107, no. 35, illustrated.
D. Coombs and M. Churchill, Winston Churchill: His Life and His Paintings, Lyme Regis, 2011, pp. 133, 253, no. C173, fig. 263.
Birmingham, Museum and Art Gallery, Paintings and Drawings from the Collection of Lord Avon, 11 January – 20 March 1966, no. 2.
London, Sotheby's, Painting As A Pastime: Winston Churchill - his life as a painter, January 1998, no. 63.
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.

Brought to you by

Benedict Winter
Benedict Winter Associate Director, Specialist

Lot Essay

Churchill’s affinity for painting began in 1915. Lady Gwendeline ‘Goonie’ Spencer-Churchill (née Bertie), the Countess of Avon’s mother and Churchill’s sister-in-law, was one of the first to encourage him during a summer retreat to Hoe Farm near Godalming, Surrey, where she loaned Churchill her son’s paint box. Out of office and distanced from political activities, Churchill’s so-called ‘wilderness years’ between 1929-39 enabled him to immerse himself in this new-found passion at every possible opportunity, building a studio in the garden of his family home at Chartwell in Kent as refuge to paint without interruption. Still Life, Silver at Chartwell is one of a series of oils painted at his country home over his lifetime, and was a gift from Churchill to his Conservative political ally and deputy Sir Anthony Eden, who served as British Foreign Secretary 1935-38; 1940-45, and 1951-55, and later served as Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957.

Churchill’s close friendships with artists including Walter Richard Sickert and Sir John Lavery provided great encouragement for his practice, where he learned techniques such as camaïeu under-painting, and further developed his application of colour. The artist Sir William Nicholson also stayed regularly at Chartwell during the 1930s and over this decade became a significant artistic mentor and overwhelming influence on Churchill’s painting, growing his passion for still life. Throughout his visits, Nicholson would mark up the colours used from his paint supplier, Lechertier Barbe, for Churchill, and the pair would paint numerous scenes within the grounds of the country house as well as still life compositions inside when poor weather dictated. On these occasions Churchill would look around for items to paint, often asking friends and family to help compose the scenes for him in a ‘paintatious group’ (M. Soames, Winston Churchill: His Life as a Painter, London, 1990, p. 105). Referring fondly to Nicholson as Cher Maître, Churchill reflected in an letter to Sir John Rothenstein, ‘I think the person who taught me most about painting was William Nicholson’ (ibid., p. 84).

Still Life, Silver at Chartwell is a clear demonstration of Nicholson’s guidance. Compared to his brighter landscape paintings, Churchill instead balances softer tones of thinly applied oil paint to masterfully depict a collection of silverware still held at the house today, including a salver and two elegant Neo-classical silver sugar pots (one an 18th century piece by John Kidder, the other a 19th century copy by Mappin & Webb, London). Each item appears thoughtfully staged on the table, brought to life by dramatic lighting to accentuate their smooth, lustrous appearance, while bold shadows cast across the scene adds a sense of theatricality and depth. Against the soft tablecloth and muted background, the compositional items are given further complexity and tactility as Churchill captures the intricate reflections with great perception, reminiscent of the shimmering pool scenes he and Nicholson painted at Chartwell. This silverware can also be identified in Nicholson’s oil, Still-life with Glass and Silver Spoon, circa 1935. Believed to be created in Churchill’s company as a painting lesson, Patricia Reed (author of P. Reed, William Nicholson: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, London, 2011) comments on the near identical composition and colour palette to Churchill’s, where Nicholson has instead loosely sketched the form of the sugar pot to appear transparent. The present work also bears close resemblance to another of Churchill’s paintings of the same objects, Silver Life, 1937, which remained in the Churchill family until its sale in 2014.

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