Archive for the ‘Chartwell’ Category

Churchill paintings accepted for the nation

March 10, 2015
Looking south-east from the balcony at Chartwell towards the painting studio, with the Kentish Weald beyond, a view Churchill loved. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

Looking south-east from the balcony at Chartwell towards the painting studio, with the Kentish Weald beyond, a view Churchill loved. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

It has just been announced that the Government has accepted a major collection of paintings by Sir Winston Churchill in lieu of inheritance tax. Most of the paintings have been allocated to the National Trust and will remain at Chartwell, where they had been on long-term loan.

The south front of Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

The south front of Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

The paintings were part of the estate of Lady Soames, Churchill’s last surviving child, who died last year. The inheritance tax liability was less than the tax settlement value of the paintings, but the executors of Lady Soames’s estate generously agreed to forgo the difference. In addition one further painting by Churchill was donated directly to the National Trust by the executors.

The garden front of Chartwell seen from the Marlborough Pavilion. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

The garden front of Chartwell seen from the Marlborough Pavilion. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

Apart from being a soldier, writer and politician, Churchill was also a talented amateur artist. As Lady Soames herself wrote of her father: ‘… in his 41st year [1915] painting literally “grabbed” him, thereafter playing an increasing and abiding role in his life, renewing the source of his great inner strength and enabling him to face storms, ride out depressions and rise above the tough passages in his political life.’

Churchill's study at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Churchill’s study at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

This allocation is yet another example of the hugely important role of the Acceptance in Lieu scheme in safeguarding important works of art and heritage objects for the benefit of the public. Over the last five years the scheme has brought items to the value of £150 million into public collections in the United Kingdom.

Politics, roses and butterflies

December 4, 2012
The south front of Chartwell, Kent, the country house of Winston and Clementine Churchill between 1922 and 1964. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

The south front of Chartwell, Kent, the country house of Winston and Clementine Churchill between 1922 and 1964. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

I am just now reading Stefan Buczakcki’s Churchill and Chartwell: The Untold Story of Churchill’s Houses and Gardens. This is a biography that approaches the man through the houses he inhabited.

Portrait of Churchill wearing his official robes as Chancellor of the Exchequer, by John Singer Sargent, 1929. © National Trust Collections

Portrait of Churchill wearing his official robes as Chancellor of the Exchequer, by John Singer Sargent, 1925. © National Trust Collections

Churchill lived in an extraordinary succession of houses during his lifetime, perhaps reflecting his restless personality and tumultuous career.

The Study at Chartwell, the hub of Churchill's political activities for over 40 years. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Study at Chartwell, the hub of Churchill’s political activities for over 40 years. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The book brings home the fact that Churchill was very much a man of his time and class: he was forever finding new houses through his extensive circle of friends and relations and borrowing accommodation from wealthier and grander relatives. And as soon as he could he acquired a house in the country in addition to his metropolitan base.

The front door at Chartwell, with an 18th-century carved wooden doorcase purchased from the London dealer Thomas Crowther. The cat is a recent reincarnation of Churchill's ginger tom Jock. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

The front door at Chartwell, with an 18th-century carved wooden doorcase purchased from the London dealer Thomas Crowther. The cat is a recent reincarnation of Churchill’s ginger tom Jock. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

The vicissitudes of Churchill’s political career also influenced his frequent changes of address. At various times he lived in official residences, such as Admiralty House, the Admiralty yacht HMS Enchantress, and of course 10 Downing Street and Chequers.

Portrait of Lady Randolph Spencer-Churchill by John Singer Sargent. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

Portrait of Lady Randolph Spencer-Churchill by John Singer Sargent. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

Buczacki suggests that Churchill’s taste in interior decoration was influenced by the sumptuously Edwardian sense of style of his mother, Lady Randolph Spencer-Churchill, born Jennie Jerome.

The Dining Room at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Nick Guttridge

The Dining Room at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Nick Guttridge

The ultimate home of Churchill and his wife Clementine was to be Chartwell in Kent, which they had substantially rebuilt by the architect Philip Tilden.

The Golden Rose Walk at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson

The Golden Rose Walk at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson

There is lots of evidence at Chartwell of how Churchill shared some of the – to us – surprisingly genteel hobbies of Victorian and Edwardian politicians and men of action, such as cultivating roses, collecting butterflies, painting in oils and an admiration for ‘old English’ architecture and Arts & Crafts-style furnishings.

Churchill's desk in the Library at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Churchill’s desk in the Library at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

To me Churchill is interesting not just as an unconventional politician (there is a fascinating article on ‘Churchill as aristocratic adventurer’ in David Cannadine’s book Aspects of Aristocracy: Grandeur and Decline in Modern Britain), but also as a kind of bridge between different ages, a Victorian in the 20th century.


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