Sir Winston Spencer Churchill (British, 1874-1965)
Sunset over the Atlas Mountains, Marrakech oil on canvas 20 x 24in (50.8 x 61cm)
Provenance: Sarah, Lady Audley Private Collection, Texas Christie's London, private sale, 3 March 1992, thence by family descent to present owner
Exhibited: Sir Winston Churchill, Wylma Wayne Fine Art, London, June - July 1982, No.32
Literature: Churchill: His Paintings, David Coombs, London, 1967, p.160, no.211 (illus)
Sir Winston Churchill began painting as a satisfying form of mental exercise during the politically inactive period of his life after leaving his post as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1915. Back at home in London, Churchill received his first lessons on the subject from his distinguished neighbors, Sir John Lavery and his wife. Churchill later received helpful instruction from a family friend, Walter Sickert, alongside whom he spent much time painting. Copying works by John Singer Sargent in the collection of his friend Sir Philip Sassoon provided Churchill with further lessons, intensifying his sensitivity in the use of the bright cadmium colors of the Impressionists. Churchill describes his particular joy in observing natures palette in a booklet of his thoughts on the subject, Painting as a Pastime: I cannot pretend to feel impartial about colours. I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns.
The view of the Atlas Mountains from the Mamounia Hotel, from where he painted the present lot in the winter of 1935-36, provided Churchill with the challenge of capturing a moment especially rich with the colors that so inspired him. The attraction this particular view held for Churchill was such that he persuaded President Franklin D. Roosevelt to accompany him to Marrakech after the Casablanca Conference in 1943 and, as his daughter Lady Soames has said, the two friends sat side by side and watched the sun set in all its splendour on the distant snow-clad peaks: a moment of tranquility amid the tumult and stress of the war.