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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FORMERLY IN THE COLLECTION OF ROALD DAHL

View of the Mediterranean near San Raphael

View of the Mediterranean near San Raphael
oil on panel
13 x 16 ¼ in. (33 x 41.2 cm.)
Painted in 1923.
This work is recorded as C542.
A gift from the artist to R. Astley Richards in 1945.
His sale; Sotheby's, London, 15 December 1965, lot 65, where purchased by Roald Dahl.
with Richard Green, London, where purchased by the present owner.
Tokyo, Board of Trade, British Week: Winston Churchill Exhibition, September - October 1969, exhibition not numbered.
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Angus Granlund
Angus Granlund Director, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

View of the Mediterranean near San Raphael, 1923, is a wonderfully fresh and vibrant work, which highlights Churchill’s mastery of tone and interest in light.

The early 1920s proved to be a difficult period for Churchill, with the loss of his mother Jennie Cornwallis-West (Lady Randolph Churchill) from a haemorrhage in 1921, and the death of his beloved child Marigold, who died two months later, aged 3, from septicaemia of the throat. Personal tragedies turned to political woes and in November 1922 at the General Election, after the breakup of the Lloyd George Coalition Government and the withdrawal of the Conservative Party, Churchill lost his seat in Dundee to the Labour candidate, a position he had held for 14 years. He also lost his post as Secretary of State for the Colonies and found himself out of public office for the first time in decades.

At the end of December 1922 Churchill took his wife Clementine and his children to the French Riviera, renting the Villa Rêve d’Or at Cannes for six months. This political hiatus provided a much needed period of recuperation and allowed Churchill to work on the second volume of his book The World Crisis and indulge in his passion for painting. His daughter Mary Soames describes that here Churchill ‘spent many happy sunlit hours painting the colourful scenes around him. For the rest of his life he was to return again and again to this beautiful coast, where the brilliant light and vivid colours appealed greatly to him’ - M. Soames, Winston Churchill His Life as a Painter, London, 1990, p. 56.

Churchill’s love for the French Riviera is evident in the jewel-like painting View of the Mediterranean near San Raphael, which reads as an ode to the coastline that inspired many of his finest works. Depicting the coast near San Raphael, Churchill captures the heat and the intensity of the Mediterranean light. Using a myriad of bright concentrated tones, Churchill succeeds in portraying the dazzling light which falls dappled and shimmering upon the water, with the surrounding red rocks bleached out by the bright sunlight. His brushstrokes, dynamic and visceral, speak of his excitement and joy of painting, their fluidity reminiscent of the French Impressionists he so greatly admired. Churchill became drawn to painting water and light, encouraged by his close friendship and tuition with Sir John Lavery. Notoriously hard to capture, Churchill was not put off, instead enjoying the challenge. He acknowledged: ‘You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and the glory of the climb’ (W. Churchill, Painting as a Pastime, London, 1948, p. 17). Striving forward, he stated, ‘I had hitherto painted the sea flat, with long, smooth strokes of mixed pigment in which the tints varied only by graduations. Now I must try to represent it by innumerate small separate lozenge-shaped points and patches of colour – often pure colour – so that it looked more like a tessellated pavement than a marine picture’ (W. Churchill, ibid., p. 17).

View of the Mediterranean near San Raphael has a captivating history and has not been seen at auction in over 50 years. It was given by Churchill to Inspector R. Astley Richards, O.B.E., who worked at Special Branch at Scotland Yard and later at MI6. He served as Churchill’s personal bodyguard from June 1945 to April 1946, just before Churchill’s General Election defeat. At this time, Richards helped Churchill organise his studio at Chartwell and during the process was given the present work by the statesman.

View of the Mediterranean near San Raphael was last seen at auction in 1965, where it was purchased by the famous author Roald Dahl. Before finding fame as a novelist, Dahl served as a fighter pilot in Britain’s Royal Air Force during the Second World War. After being invalided out in 1942 he was reassigned to a diplomatic post in the British embassy in Washington D.C., as an assistant air attaché, tasked with public relations and encouraging the Americans continued commitment to the British war effort. While here he became close with many American political powers including President Franklin D. Roosevelt. During the war he is reported as supplying intelligence on the president to Churchill and to the British Security Coordination, which was part of MI6. In a television interview Dahl revealed, ‘My job was to try to help Winston Churchill to get on with FDR and tell Winston what was in the old boy's mind in America. I was really not spying against the Americans I was trying to create amity’ (R. Dahl, quoted in The Marvellous World of Roald Dahl, BBC documentary, 2016).

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