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Bright green trees and the cool blues of a stream enliven a painting of medieval wood and stone homes in an idyllic French country town.

“His works were stunning, ide­al­istic — the weight and texture of his brush strokes not unlike that of glazed candy — yet they still carried a serious, mature tone,” sophomore Andrea Wallace said.

Wallace wasn’t describing Monet or Renoir — she was describing the art of none other than Sir Winston Churchill.

A col­lection of Winston Churchill’s art is on display at the Daughtrey Gallery in the Sage Center for the Arts. Churchill Her­itage Limited | Courtesy

“The Art of Winston Churchill,” on display in the Daughtrey Gallery through March 10, is a tes­tament to Churchill the man and the cause for which he fought.

“Churchill claimed that excel­lence in painting is the same prin­ciple as fighting a battle or making a philo­sophic argument,” Hillsdale College Pres­ident and Churchill Scholar Larry Arnn said. “He claimed that painting is more exciting than fighting a battle suc­cess­fully. Remarkable, from a man who had fought many battles.”

Churchill began painting in 1915 after a series of political mis­for­tunes left him in an obscure post. He only stopped painting in 1958, when he could no longer hold a paint­brush.

“Just to paint is great fun,” Churchill wrote in his essay, “Painting as Pastime.” “The colours are lovely to look at and deli­cious to squeeze out. Matching them, however crudely, with what you see is fas­ci­nating and absolutely absorbing. Try it if you have not done so — before you die.”

“I think this one of the most important para­graphs Churchill wrote,” Arnn said.

The exhibit is on loan from the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Mis­souri. However, not all of the pieces travel with the exhibit.

“Six of the nine paintings belong to the Sandys family,” Soren Geiger ’13, a research assistant on the Churchill Project, said. “Duncan Sandys married Diana Churchill — Winston’s daughter — which is how they came by the paintings. Two of the family members reached out to us to ask if we’d like to host the exhibit.”

Pre­vi­ously, Geiger explained, the exhibit had been on display in Cal­i­fornia, aboard the Queen Mary, an ocean liner which ferried Allied troops to Europe during World War II

“Churchill was a great and important man,” Arnn said. “The college is com­pleting and pub­lishing his biog­raphy. He loved to paint and was suc­cessful at it. He thought the activity fun and also important. We can learn some­thing about states­manship, art, truth, and beauty from it. So says Churchill.”

Geiger said that one of those lessons about states­manship to be found in Churchill’s painting is how an artist — like the skillful politician — must observe and translate minute details into a bigger picture.

Throughout much of his life, Churchill suf­fered visits from what he called “the black dog” of depression. Some his­to­rians have the­o­rized that his artwork was one emo­tional release that helped him deal with his mental illness.

“Churchill’s art is unique, because it is Churchill doing the painting and his works accord with what one can learn in studying the man,” Pro­fessor of Art Sam Knecht said. “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.”

Despite often being con­sidered an amateur by many pro­fes­sional art critics, Churchill’s art has been well received by Hillsdale’s campus. Par­tic­u­larly, stu­dents have praised his paintings for their col­or­fulness and dis­tinctive impres­sion­istic style.

Also on display are arti­facts and mem­o­ra­bilia from Churchill’s life, including a top hat signed for an aide’s birthday by Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Franklin Roo­sevelt; a cigar humid­ifier given to Churchill by the people of Cuba; and the Union Jack which hung on the stage while Churchill gave his famous “Iron Curtain” speech.

The arti­facts and the paintings present the vision of Western culture which Churchill sought to defend against the threats posed by the twin tyrannies of Nazism and com­munism.

“When Civ­i­lization reigns, in any country,” Churchill said in a 1938 speech at the Uni­versity of Bristol, “a wider and less harassed life is afforded to the masses of the people. The tra­di­tions of the past are cher­ished, and the inher­i­tance bequeathed to us by former wise or valiant men becomes a rich estate to be enjoyed and used by all.”

At one point during the World War II, the director of Britain’s National Gallery sug­gested moving the gallery’s col­lection from London to safety in Canada. When he asked Churchill for per­mission, Churchill reportedly refused, and insisted on keeping the paintings in London to remind the British people why they fought.

“There is con­fi­dence and con­sistent good cheer,” Knecht said, speaking of the Churchill paintings on display specif­i­cally. “Taken together his paintings affirm that he was an optimist, despite the many burdens he bore. There is reas­suring sun­light in abun­dance in his works. There is the beauty of locale well-observed. There is color as opposed to drab.”

At his funeral, Churchill had the hymn “I Vow to Thee My Country” played. The opening lines are: “I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above, / Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love.”

Churchill painted what he loved. He painted scenes of the French coun­tryside and of his home at Chartwell in southeast England. “The Art of Winston Churchill” shows much about Churchill’s ambition — that is, to protect the char­acter of Western civ­i­lization.

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Michael Lucchese
Michael Lucchese ‘18 is majoring in American Studies, and is a member of the Dow Journalism Program. In addition to the Collegian, he has also contributed to The Federalist, Acculturated, Conservative Review, and several other publications. In 2015, he reported on national security and foreign policy for Breitbart News. He also hosts a weekly radio show, The Michael Lucchese Show on Radio Free Hillsdale WRFH 101.7 FM. e-mail: mlucchese@hillsdale.edu Twitter: @MichaelLucchese