Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War and one of the world's greatest statesmen of the twentieth century. He began painting while in Surrey.
A professional soldier as a young man, Churchill entered politics having discovered he could make his living by writing. In 1908 he married Clementine Hozier.
On the outbreak of the First World War he was First Lord of the Admiralty. In 1916 Allied Forces attempted to gain control of the Dardanelles in North West Turkey. The campaign was a disaster and Churchill was forced to resign. Churchill thought his career was finished and became deeply depressed. His wife, Clementine, worried that he would die. Churchill and his brother, Jack, in 1915 leased for the summer months, Hoe Farm in Hascombe near Godalming, as a weekend retreat for their families. It was owned by Joseph Godman for whom the architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, had extended the farmhouse in 1890.
One Sunday at Hoe Farm, Churchill noticed his sister-in-law, Gwendeline, painting in water colours. She encouraged him to try his hand but dissatisfied with the medium he decided on oils. Four pictures of Hoe Farm by Churchill remain. Churchill found oil painting to be the most complete physical and mental relaxation and he took his paints and canvases everywhere. By the end of his life he had painted more than 500 pictures - landscapes, interiors, still life and portraits. It was to be the start of the paintings painted during 1920-1940, and as he said “Buy a paint-box, and have a try”. It gave him immense pleasure for the rest of his life “Happy are painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end of the day” he wrote in his book, Painting as a Pastime (1925).
Reproductions of two of Churchill's paintings of Hoe Farm can be found on the first floor landing of Godalming Museum.
Churchill and his wife were frequent visitors to Knebworth, the family home of Sir Edwin Lutyens's wife, Emily Lytton, where the architect did much work on the garden and in the house, including the Great Hill which was the subject of one of Churchill's paintings.
Churchill was born on the 30th November 1874, and died on the 24th January 1965.
Godalming Museum © 2006