Painting of Winston Churchill by artist whose work he hated is up for auction

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LONDON: A portrait of Winston Churchill by an artist whose work the British leader loathed went on display Tuesday at Churchill’s birthplace ahead of an auction in June. The painting by modernist artist Graham Sutherland was made in preparation for a larger portrait that Churchill hated and which was later destroyed – an episode recounted in the TV series “The Crown”.
The surviving oil-on-canvas study shows Churchill’s head in profile against a dark background. It is expected to sell for between 500,000 pounds and 800,000 pounds ($622,000 and $995,000) at Sotheby’s in London on June 6.
Sutherland was commissioned by the Houses of Parliament to paint Churchill to mark his 80th birthday in 1954. The full-length portrait was unveiled in Parliament that year, with Churchill calling it, with a smirk, “a remarkable example of modern art”.
Churchill is said to have complained that the painting “makes me look half-witted, which I ain’t”. It was delivered to his home and never seen again. The Churchill family disclosed years later that it had been destroyed.
Its fate was recreated with poetic license in an episode of “The Crown” in which Churchill’s wife, Clementine, watches the painting go up in flames.
Andre Zlattinger, Sotheby’s head of modern British and Irish art, said that in the surviving study, “Churchill is caught in a moment of absent-minded thoughtfulness, and together with the backstory of its creation, it gives the impression of a man truly concerned with his image.”
Sotheby’s put the picture on public display inside the room where Churchill was born 150 years ago at Blenheim Palace, a country mansion 60 miles (100 km) northwest of London. Visitors can see it there until Sunday. It will go on show at Sotheby’s offices in New York May 3-16 and London May 25-June 5.



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