Churchill by Sir John Lavery, and vice versa

Winston Churchill by Sir John Lavery, 1915.

In the following excerpt Lavery pays tribute to his friend and regular painting companion, Winston Churchill. The Lord Charles Beresford in the story was a popular and larger-than-life Member of Parliament and Admiral, known as “Charlie B” to the public. He was a small part of a larger anti-Churchill faction that had WC demoted from First Lord of the Admiralty following the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign. Their hostess at Kingston Hill was Louise, Lady Paget, still remembered and celebrated by Serbs for her humanitarian and hospital work in the Balkans during the First World War. Above: Churchill by Lavery, painting at his country house, Chartwell. Below: Lavery by Churchill, at work in his studio. Both pictures were painted in 1915. Finally, at the foot of the post, a haunting self-portrait by Churchill done after Gallipoli. Some commentators have theorised, plausibly enough, that it shows signs of the depression Churchill must undoubtedly have suffered following his demotion.

In pre-War days a weekend in the country meant Friday to Tuesday. That never suited me as a strange bed meant no sleep. When the War came there was less time to spare, and a run in the country for lunch or dinner on a Sunday had to suffice statesmen, generals, and the rest for relaxation. One such Sunday at Lady Paget’s, at Kingston Hill, Winston Churchill and I were painting with no one taking much notice of us, when a hale-and-hearty voice behind called out, “Hello, Winston, when did you begin this game?” Without turning round Winston replied, “The day you kicked me out of the Admiralty, Lord Charles.” “Well,” said Beresford, “who knows? I may have saved a great Master.” 

Mr. Churchill has been called a pupil of mine, which is highly flattering, for I know few amateur wielders of the brush with a keener sense of light and color, or a surer grasp of essentials. I am able to prove this from experience. We have often stood up to the same motif, and in spite of my trained eye and knowledge of possible difficulties, he, with his characteristic fearlessness and freedom from convention, has time and again shown me how I should do things. Had he chosen painting instead of statesmanship I believe he would have been a great master with the brush, and as P.R.A. [President of the Royal Academy]would have given a stimulus to the art world. 

Sir John Lavery by Winston Churchill, 1915.
Winston Churchill, self-portrait, 1916.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s