Friday, January 1, 2016

“Sir Winston Churchill: His Life and His Paintings”

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis, on the grounds of Washington University, has an excellent exhibit of “The Paintings of Sir Winston Churchill” which will close on Feb. 14. In November, I had a post about the exhibit, noting that it was sponsored by the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Mo., site of Churchill’s famous “Iron Curtain” speech in 1946.

The companion book for the exhibition, Sir Winston Churchill: His Life and Paintings by David Coombs with Minnie Churchill, is something of an anomaly. At the exhibition, you can buy it for $71.95. On Amazon, it is available through third-party sellers, with prices starting at 353 for a used copy and $611 for a new copy. The book originally published in 2011 and, I believe, “adopted” for the exhibition.

It’s a coffee table kind of book – large, rather lavish, filled with color reproductions of virtually all of Churchill’s known paintings and a few photographs of some that are currently lost.

Churchill began to paint in 1915, when he was 40 years old. He had a penchant for landscapes of almost all kinds – beaches, valleys, meadows, the Kentish countryside around his home, Chartwell, and mountains, but he was by no means limited to landscapes. He also painted still lifes, buildings, homes, rooms, and people. He managed to work himself into his paintings (such as the one at the top – the figure at the furthest right). He even wrote a book about painting – Painting as Pastime.

To see Churchill’s paintings together gives a sense of what the man accomplished as a “pastime.” He wasn’t “just a painter;” he was a good painter, an artist, certainly influenced by Impressionism but with his own unique style.

The exhibit at the Kemper is a wonderful show; as good as the book it, it’s no substitute for seeing the real paintings up close and with explanations of many of them as to their context, little known facts, and the historical circumstances surrounding them.

Painting: Beach at Walmer, oil on canvas by Sir Winston Churchill (1938); private collection.

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