Hillsdale College students may be familiar with the statesmanship of Winston Churchill. But a new exhibit presents an opportunity to acquaint themselves with an aspect of Churchill’s life his biographers may sometimes neglect — painting.
“The Art of Winston Churchill” opened at the Daughtrey Gallery on Monday, Jan. 30, and will run through Friday, March 10. The travelling exhibit, organized by the National Churchill Museum at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, features nine of Churchill’s paintings and a collection of memorabilia and artifacts from Churchill’s life and times.
Churchill took up oil painting as a hobby in 1915 and continued painting until 1958. Among his favorite subjects to paint were landscapes, generally in an impressionistic style.
“Speaking as one that has painted landscapes outdoors all my life, I look at Churchill’s landscapes and see a kindred spirit,” Professor of Art Sam Knecht said. “In his work I consistently find notes of color and competent drawing that have the ring of truth. Beyond that, there is both gusto and richness of effects. Nothing wimpy, but seldom anything overstated either.”
“Even though he painted external subjects, the management of art elements in his work invite the sense that each painting is a revelation of his inner spirit,” Knecht said.
Hillsdale College has a unique connection to the legacy of one of the 20th century’s greatest statesmen: President Larry Arnn studied under Churchill’s official biographer, the late Sir Martin Gilbert.
The college is also home to the Churchill Project, which is carrying on Gilbert’s work. Currently, the Churchill Project is in the process of publishing the final six documentary volumes in connection with the official biography — one of the longest ever written in the English language.
Since Monday, many students have already had a chance to see Churchill’s paintings.
“I think it’s neat to see art from people who aren’t necessarily artists,” senior Luke Robson, who attending the opening day of the exhibit, said. “We get to know Churchill through politics and history, but this offers us an opportunity to get to know a different side of the man.”
Other students who have not seen the exhibit expressed their excitement about it.
“Painting isn’t primarily what Churchill is known for, but I’m excited to see the exhibit because his art will show a lot about how he thought — not just as a painter, but also as a statesman and a leader,” Josh Bailey, a sophomore who plans on visiting in the coming weeks, said.
Although Churchill is not considered a world-class painter by most standards, Hillsdale students have very warmly received his paintings on display this month.
“He’s actually pretty good,” said junior John Gage. “If someone showed me a Churchill painting without telling me who painted it, I might even believe it was a Monet.”