He was the Prime Minister who led Great Britain to victory in the Second World War, a Nobel Prize-winning writer and even inspired an insurance advert with a talking bulldog. Now Winston Churchill (1874-1965) can add estimate-smashing artist to his name.
An oil painting of the great statesman’s goldfish pond at his mansion in Kent went under the hammer for £357,000 (including premium) at Sotheby’s on Tuesday (23 November). ‘The Goldfish Pond at Chartwell’ (1962) was expected to command between £50,000-£80,000 at auction but instead sold for nearly five times that amount at Sotheby’s modern and post-war British art sale.
The work, which had never before been viewed by the public and is said to be his ‘last work ever painted’ was given by Churchill to his bodyguard, Sergeant Edmund Murray. It was Murray who encouraged Churchill to begin painting again after the former PM’s artistic hobby dwindled and often set up his easel and paintbrushes for him.
Churchill had first picked up his paintbrushes around 1914 when he was 40-years-old. He never sold a work during his lifetime but instead presented dozens of his paintings to colleagues, friends and foreign dignitaries. Asked in 1946 if he would consider exhibiting his work Churchill scoffed at the suggestion.
“They are not worth it. They are only of interest in having been painted by a notorious character!”, he replied.