EPPING, England – In a 2002 nationwide poll conducted by the BBC, Sir Winston Churchill 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 lighter side to “The British Bulldog” that has come into sharper focus since the 50th anniversary of his passing. Churchill was, in fact, a serious artist who traveled with easel and paints in tow wherever he went.
On July 27, Boningtons Fine Art Auctioneers will offer two significant oil paintings by Churchill. Both are from a private collection and depict exotic subjects that captured the prime minister’s imagination: the Venetian Causeway in Miami Beach, and Egypt’s Giza Pyramids.
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. Sir Winston found sunny Florida and its outdoor attractions much to his liking. He 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. Illustrated in the 1967 David Coombs book Churchill: His Paintings, that Miami Beach waterscape is expected to make $200,000-$335,000 at auction.
The larger of the two paintings, which depicts the Giza Pyramids near Cairo, is estimated at $520,000-$780,000. Created circa 1946, it was given by Churchill to his close friend Field Marshall Jan Christian Smuts together with a second painting of the same subject. The surviving work was displayed in Smuts’ residence and has been featured in three books. The other pyramid painting was stolen in 1972 and never seen again.
Churchill produced more than 500 paintings in his lifetime. Those appearing at auction have been enthusiastically pursued by collectors. In 2014, a buyer paid nearly $2 million for Churchill’s The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell.
The July 27 auction also includes a remarkable American historical memento: an inscribed sterling silver presentation vase given by President Grover Cleveland to a heroic British steamship captain in 1895. The vase is accompanied by a newspaper article recounting the gallant efforts of Captain Amos Hawkett in rescuing the crews of two American schooners. Auction estimate: $3,900-$6,500.