Testament to a remarkable, complex personality

For such a physically strong and restless man, the act of painting proved an ideal balm and release and he was in fact quoted as saying, “if it weren’t for painting, I couldn’t live; I couldn’t bear the strain of things.”

Artdaily.org reports that Sir Winston Churchill’s painting, Marrakech, will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s. The painting

was a gift from Churchill to the former US President, Harry S. Truman, in 1951 and has remained with the Truman family ever since. The work is being sold by the former President’s daughter, Margaret Truman Daniel, who actually hand-carried the painting from Downing Street, London to the US on behalf of her father.

To accompany his gift, Churchill wrote to Truman: “This picture was hung in the Academy last year, and it is about as presentable as anything I can produce. It shows the beautiful panorama of the Atlas Mountains in Marrakech. This is the view I persuaded your predecessor [President Roosevelt] to see before he left North Africa after the Casablanca Conference [in 1943]. He was carried to the top of a high tower, and a magnificent sunset was duly in attendance.”


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mysteriouswonder
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 11:29:32

    Wow, that is astonishing. Is the family suffering some financial crisis, or does the daughter just want some extra cash lying in her piggy bank for heading to the Bahama’s. I would think if it has been a family treasury for 50 years that you would want to keep it. It a well crafted drawing, and it should get a pretty penny.

    Has the world come to the need of more money for bigger power? Is the power of art for people fading?

    Whoever buys Churchills’ painting better be a person that will protect it and make sure it lives on. It may not be a Mona Lisa, but it still is a wonderful piece.


  2. nebcanuck
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 18:39:21

    Don’t make fun of the fact that she’s letting it go. We don’t know her motivation — the article doesn’t say — but my guess would be that she feels that someone could value it better. She’s getting up there in the years — 82 now, I believe! — and surely the thought must have crossed her mind that someone else might have fonder memories of it than her children, who weren’t around to remember Churchill as the great figure he was! And it’s hardly “some extra cash”… 300 000 – 500 000 pounds is certainly a sizable sum.

    As for Churchill, he’s an intriguing figure if there ever was one. Like Reagan, he was a raging imperialist during his time as a global leader. And yet, despite this, he is undeniably one of the most important reasons that Germany didn’t win the Second World War. And he’s not a one-dimensional blowhard, either… he really showed a deeper portion despite his hard-ball politics. The fact that he needed so powerfully his painting is little surprise, although I never would have guessed it until I read the post. Just another dimension to a truly awesome man!


  3. Juggling mother
    Oct 31, 2007 @ 08:50:21

    £300,00 – £500,000 is not that much to the Trumans, so I doubt she’s selling it for the money. I expect she feels that it would be more valued elsewhere, and the publicity isn’t a bad thing. I wouldn’t like to presume which was higher on her list of priorities.

    Of course that nice Mr Sainsbury just bequethed £100 million of paintings to the nation, so Ms Truman is not as philanthropical as all that! 🙂


  4. Stephen
    Oct 31, 2007 @ 10:34:47

    In defence of Mysterious Wonder, the same question ran through my mind. It’s such an extraordinary family heirloom, how could Truman’s daughter ever part with it for mere money?!

    But Juggling Mother perhaps points us in the right direction. Maybe the Truman family wants the painting to be publicly accessible, and not their own private treasure.

    We can only speculate, but maybe we should give Truman’s daughter the benefit of the doubt.


  5. Random
    Nov 02, 2007 @ 06:29:52

    More detail on this in The Times (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article2748480.ece) – “financial reasons” are given as the cause of the decision, though no details are mentioned. And it’s hardly “mere” money – the figures already quoted are almost certainly a gross underestimate as it’s being predicted that this will probably be the first Churchill painting to break the million pound barrier. Sadly I think this is the more plausible motivation – if public accessibility was really the main factor, the obvious course of action would presumably have been to donate the painting to the Truman Presidential Library (of which Margaret is a director).

    Incidentally, as a minor piece of trivia/schadenfreude, it might be of interest to note that this is something like 20-40 times the highest price ever recorded for a painting by Hitler to have been sold at auction. The difference appears to be down to the fact that whereas both have a similar historical prominence, only Churchill actually possessed significant artistic talent.


  6. Stephen
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 12:37:25

    Thanks for that tidbit about Churchill vs. Hitler. I agree that Churchill had actual talent, and it’s great that the market reflects that!


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