A Man For All Seasons

The Art Of Winston Churchill

By artist and author Edwina Sandys, Granddaughter of Winston Churchill
Edwina Sandys’ painting and text © Edwina Sandys | Artist Rights Society, NY

All Winston Churchill works are © Churchill Heritage, Ltd.

Churchill, by Frank O. Salisbury:“Blood Sweat and Tears”, 1943. Oil on canvas, 49 x 39 in.
© Estate Salisbury.

The Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach is opening an exhibition of my grandfather’s paintings this year on December 1st for members and guests and for the public on December 2. The show also highlights other aspects of his extraordinary life.

Still life of Fruits, 1930s. Oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in.

Winston Churchill and granddaughter Edwina Sandys (1963)

Winston Churchill was the first artist I ever knew.  As a young child, I would stand behind him, watching as he put magic on the canvas.  Many years later I followed Grandpapa’s footsteps, finding my own pathway to art and sharing some common ground with him. Churchill was 40 years old when he started painting. In May1915, he had resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty after the disastrous Dardanelles campaign. Out of office, he found inactivity intolerable. One Sunday afternoon he picked up a paint box belonging to his children.  Gingerly he mixed a little blue and white and, with the smallest brush, carefully placed a tiny dab “about as big as a bean” on the naked surface of the enormous canvas looming before him. He stood staring at it, thoroughly defeated. At that moment a car came up the driveway and out stepped Lady Lavery, the artist wife of Irish painter Sir John Lavery. She peered critically over his shoulder. “Painting!” Lady Lavery exclaimed. “But what are you hesitating about? Let me have a brush – the big one.” Splash into the turpentine, wallop into the blue and white, frantic flourishes on the palette – clean no longer – and then several large, fierce strokes and slashes of blue on the absolutely cowering canvas. Anyone could see that it could not hit back. The sickly inhibitions rolled away. Churchill said, “I seized the largest brush and fell upon my victim with berserk fury.”

Painting by Edwina Sandys: “Brush with History,” 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 44 x 34 in.

On the other hand, I had a different start. At the age of 30, a wife and mother, with two sons at kindergarten, I thought there must be more to life than this. What could I do that would be challenging? My first thought was to be an anchorwoman on TV – but then I thought I would never be brave enough to do that. Then I thought “Why not go into the family business? Politics! Aha!” My husband had already secured a safe seat in Cornwall for the next election.  I then was selected for an unwinnable seat in the East End of London. I got the maps out and with magic markers colored the different areas to concentrate on. All fine – until my husband’s constituency told him that they had chosen him out of 70 – all married men. They said they would drop him if I insisted on fighting for my own seat. “Tell Edwina to get off the bus!” So I did and fell into art using the lovely colored magic markers I already had at hand.

Winston Churchill painting at Château St. Georges Motel, near Dreux, France, 1930s (see below).

The chateau at St. Georges Motel, c.1935. Oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in.

Neither my grandfather nor I went to art school, although he did get a bit of  advice from some good painters he knew. But perhaps my grandfather’s best critic was my grandmother Clementine. As my aunt Mary Soames wrote: “One of her more frequent criticisms was that Winston was prone to ‘overwork’ a picture, and she would try to remove the canvas when she judged the right moment when the best result had been achieved. “She really was quite brave; I have seen her stand watching my father painting, and suddenly quite calmly remove his canvas from the easel and walk off with it!  No one else would have dreamed of taking such a liberty, and needless to say my father sometimes was very angry when she ‘swooped’ away his masterpiece.”

Before he ever took paintbrush to canvas my grandfather was literally painting with words, so when he actually did start painting, it seemed preordained. He was entranced by contrasting patterns of light and shade. To him, writing and painting were the Yin and the Yang to each other. He wrote lyrically about how painting had opened his eyes more widely to the wonders of nature. “I found myself instinctively as I walked, noting the tint and character of a leaf … the dreamy purple shades of mountains, the exquisite lacery of winter branches…” he said.

And this was the same man who said: “…We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields, and in the streets… we shall never surrender…”

Perhaps the greatest legacy an artist can have is to be an INSPIRATION to others. My grandfather has been that to many.  President Dwight Eisenhower, President George Bush, and countless others have followed his lead.


A Man For All Seasons The Art of Winston Churchill
2 Four Arts Plaza, Palm Beach, FL 33480
Exhibit opens 10 a.m. , December 2, 2017 – January 14, 2018
Esther B. O’Keeffe Gallery
The exhibition is organized by the National Churchill Museum at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, and The Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, Florida. Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. -5 p.m., Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

AND don’t miss an illustrated lecture by Artist Edwina Sandys who will discuss the life and art of her grandfather Winston Churchill.
December 9, 2017 at 11 a.m.
Walter S. Gubelmann Auditorium | No charge.

A Man For All Seasons