Winston Churchill Painting Sells for Record $2.75 Million

Winston Churchill, The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell (1932).

Winston Churchill will always be known as a politician first, but his artistic prowess is being recognized anew, in the form of a record-breaking £1,762,500 ($2.76 million) auction sale. The painting was included in today’s Sotheby’s sale of the personal possessions of the former prime minister’s last surviving child, Mary Soames, who died in May of this year.

Prior to today’s auction, the previous record for the world leader and painter was £1 million ($1.57 million), set at Sotheby’s in 2007 for Chartwell Landscape with Sheep. No one expected his 1932 canvas The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell, which carried a pre-sale estimate of £400,000–600,000 ($626,000–939,000), to approach that mark, but with five prospective buyers eagerly raising paddles, the price quickly escalated, leaving the earlier record in the dust.

The painting depicts the water gardens at Churchill’s home in Chartwell, which he helped plant. Of all his works, Churchill’s English paintings are the most popular. The sale includes 14 other of his works, including two others of Chartwell. Tapestries at Blenheim also outstripped the 2007 record, fetching an impressive £1,082,500 ($1.7 million) compared to an estimate of £200,000–300,000 ($314,00–470,000).

While Churchill only began painting at age 40, he studied the craft from professional artists, including his friends, Irish portraitist John Lavery and British artist William Nicholson, and completed over 500 oil paintings in his lifetime. He is just one of a number of politicians who have taken up the brush (see “From Jimmy Carter to Hitler, 10 Politicians Who Tried Their Hands at Art“), a group that notably includes former U.S. President George W. Bush, who continues to make headlines for his new-found love of painting (see “George W. Bush’s Pearls of Wisdom on Painting” and “George W. Bush Is Still a Bad Painter“); and Churchill’s wartime enemy, Adolf Hitler, who was not nearly as successful at his most recent go-around on the auction block (see “Middle East Collector Buys Hitler Painting for $162,000“).

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