Churchill and his portrait

Winston Chruchill

“A remarkable example of modern art” growled Churchill in the Westminster Hall when the grateful parliament presented him with a portrait for his 80th birthday in 1954, soliciting laughter from his audience, “It certainly combines force and candor,” the aging prime minister added.

Privately, he hated it. A painter himself, Churchill did not like the portrait by Graham Sutherland. Although not a vain man — he had just refused the elevation to the peerage as The Duke of London — Churchill wanted to sit for the portrait in his garter robes. The painting also, “makes me look half‐witted, which I ain’t,” he remarked.

More importantly, it had depicted him as a tired done man; Churchill had his second stroke the previous year — the full extent of which he kept from the public and from Parliament, who were told that the prime minister was suffering from exhaustion — and saw this ailment reflected by Sutherland’s brush.

The parliament greatly feared his death, and by 1954, already plans were quietly underway for a state funeral; the painting was meant to be a memorial in that way too — to hang in perpetuity in Westminster Abbey after the Prime Minister’s death. In sulk, Churchill instead took it to his country estate in Chartwell, where it promptly went into the cellars, later to be destroyed by his wife Clementine.

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0 thoughts on “Churchill and his portrait

  1. Artist are unique professionals. I find it refreshing that Sutherland saw and painted the truth. This painting does not take anything away from the great man Churchill was, just who he was at the time of the portrait. Who wouldn’t be exhausted from spending more than half of his life fighting to save his nation and the world! “Long live Churchill and Sutherland”

  2. You paint what you see. That is how the artist saw him. If they wanted to make a lie they should have hired someone else. I admire the artist for being truthful to his craft. Churchill was a colonialist, imperialist demagogue. I guess he wanted to have a halo over his head in the painting.

  3. i liked it but I see their point it should have shown more of his heroic side but it wasn’t just him you know it was all of the allies pulling together to fight evil it was still good

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