England

Churchill oil seen in public for first time

Still Life With Orchids Image copyright MacConnal-Mason Gallery
Image caption Churchill rarely signed his paintings, but did so with Still Life With Orchids

A picture of orchids painted by Winston Churchill during his "wilderness years" when he was out of power has gone on show to the public for the first time.

Still Life with Orchids was painted at Churchill's home, Chartwell in Kent, and given to Margot Sandys, an in-law of one of his daughters, in 1936.

Churchill was unpopular and out of power in the early 1930s.

"He was a very contemplative man," said Alice Martin, collections manager at Chartwell, near Westerham.

"He wrote a lot and he painted. He especially took up painting to help him with some of the darker thoughts he had.

"He was very much encouraged by his wife to take up painting as a form of therapy and to get him out of the doldrums.

"He was a man who always had to be doing something."

When world War II broke out in 1939, Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty and Prime Minister the next year.

Churchill was reluctant to part with his many paintings and rarely signed them.

But he did sign Still Life With Orchids at the request of its owner, Margot Sandys, 20 years after he gave it to her.

The painting is on show at the Masterpiece London exhibition at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea and is expected to fetch about £495,000 when it is sold via private bids.

"It is fairly rare for works by him to come up and it is extremely rare for such a significant work as this to appear on the open market," said Marcus Halliwell, director of the MacConnal-Mason Gallery.

"It hasn't been seen in public ever because it was acquired straight from the studio."

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