Winston Churchill paintings of Miami Beach and Giza Pyramids to be auctioned in UK
EPPING, U.K. – In a 2002 nationwide poll conducted by the venerable BBC, Sir Winston Churchill, O.M., R.A. (1874-1965), was voted “The Greatest Briton of All Time.” Known for his unshakable resolve and thundering declaration that Britain would “never surrender” to Nazi Germany, Churchill was a leader with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Yet, there was a gentler side to the man known as The British Bulldog, and it has come into sharper focus since the recent 50th anniversary of his passing. Churchill was, in fact, a talented artist who traveled with easel and paints in tow, wherever he went.
On July 27, Boningtons Fine Art Auctioneers in Epping, England will offer two significant oil paintings by Sir Winston Churchill. Both come from a private collection and depict exotic subjects that captured the prime minister’s imagination: the Venetian Causeway in Miami Beach, and the Giza Pyramids near Cairo.
In January 1946, Churchill and his wife Clementine arrived in Miami for a six-week stay at the home of Canadian industrialist Col. Frank W. Clarke. It was their first lengthy vacation following World War II. Sir Winston found sunny Florida and its local scenery much to his liking, and according to Miami Herald archives, visited the Parrot Jungle, Hialeah racetrack, and the shores of Dilido Isle in Biscayne Bay, where he painted an idyllic waterscape of Miami Beach’s Venetian Causeway. Upon completing the artwork, he gifted it to his hosts, Col. and Mrs. Clarke.
Illustrated in the 1967 David Coombs book Churchill: His Paintings, the Miami Beach artwork measures 25 by 30 inches and is expected to sell for $200,000-$335,000 at auction.
The larger of the two paintings, a 27½ by 35 3/8-inch oil-on-canvas rendering of the Giza Pyramids near Cairo (shown at top of page), is estimated at $520,000-$780,000. Created circa 1946, it was given as a gift by Churchill to his close friend Field Marshall Jan Christian Smuts, along with another painting depicting the same subject. The surviving work was displayed in Smuts’ study at his home and has been featured in three books, including Smuts’ biography and two art references by David Coombs. The second of the two pyramid paintings, which was displayed at Libertas, Pretoria, was stolen in 1972 and has never been traced.
Biographer David Coombs described Churchill as a “serious and intelligent painter” who closely studied and was influenced by Turner, Cézanne, Monet and John Singer Sargent.
It is believed that Churchill produced more than 500 paintings in his lifetime. Those that have come to auction have been pursued with great vigor. At the December 17, 2014 Sotheby’s London auction of Churchill paintings from the estate of his daughter Mary Soames, a buyer paid nearly $2 million for The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell. It was the highest price ever paid for a Winston Churchill artwork at auction.
The July 27 auction also includes a one-of-a-kind American historical memento: a Moore & Leding sterling silver presentation vase given by President Grover Cleveland to a heroic British steamship captain in 1895.
The baluster-form vase displays ornate scrollwork and handles formed as the American Eagle atop the Shield of the Great Seal of the United States. It is finely chased with a scene depicting a ship in distress and a rescue ship in the background, and bears the inscription: From The President of the United States to Captain Amos Hawkett of The British Steamship, Queensmore, in recognition of his humane services in effecting the rescue of the crews of the American schooners, ALMA CUMMINGS and MARION F SPRAGUE, February 12th and 13th, 1895.
The vase is accompanied by a newspaper article that documents the gallant efforts of Captain Hawkett in rescuing the American ships’ crews. The journalist specifically mentions President Cleveland’s gifts of a silver vase and inscribed watch, as well as a banquet that was held in the captain’s honor at Gordon’s in London. The vase carries a pre-sale estimate of $3,900-$6,500.
The Churchill paintings of Miami Beach and the Giza Pyramids represent the first ever to be auctioned by a British regional auction house. Bonington’s Fine Art Auctioneers. Online: www.boningtons.com.