Widely known as the greatest statesman of the 20th century, the savior of Western civilization, and a Nobel Prize winner, Sir Winston Churchill was also an avid painter.
Churchill was age 40 when he began to paint — at one of the lowest moments of his life. It was June 1915, shortly after his forced resignation as First Lord of the Admiralty following the disastrous Dardanelles campaign. One Sunday afternoon, his sister-in-law Lady Gwendoline handed him a paintbrush belonging to his young nephew. In his 1921 essay “Painting as a Pastime” Churchill recalled, “And then it was that the Muse of Painting came to my rescue.” Painting provided a refuge from the stresses of politics and journalism, and from what Churchill called “the black dog” of depression. Moreover, Churchill saw painting as a testing ground for leadership strengths such as audacity, humility, foresight, and strength of memory.
He was inspired by the Impressionists and enjoyed painting en plein air. And wherever he went — on vacation or for work — Churchill was accompanied by his paints, brushes, canvases, and an easel. His medium of choice was oil, and his preferred subjects were landscapes and seascapes. His approximately 550 canvases — or his “daubs” as he called them — tell the story of his travels across Europe, North America, and North Africa. “Lake Near Breccles in Autumn” (c. 1930) depicts a landscape closer to home and recalls the broad brushstrokes of the Impressionists he admired.