OCTOBER 3, 2014 - FEBRUARY 1, 2015

“You have a medium at your disposal which offers real power, if you only can find out how to use it.”

–Winston Churchill, Painting as a Pastime (1921)

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death (January 24, 2015), The Millennium Gate Museum and the Churchill family have jointly organized an exhibition of the iconic statesman, war-time hero, and Nobel-prize winning historian’s lesser known but equally vibrant triumphs: his paintings, better and more humbly known among his friends and in his writings as his “daubs.”

Curated in part from the never-before exhibited, personal family holdings of several descendants, The Art of Diplomacy explores the relationship between Churchill’s strategic decision-making and his evolving practice as an artist. How did his strengths as an historic leader, innovator, and policymaker affect his painting, and how in turn did his development as an artist influence his decisions and overall perspective? Churchill, who picked up painting in the wake of his resignation as First Lord of the Admiralty following 1915’s disastrous Battle of Gallipoli, embraced art as a source of great enjoyment. But beyond his love of what he called a “joy-ride in a paint-box,” he saw painting as testing grounds for leadership strengths like audacity, humility, foresight, and strength of memory. Painting a picture, he wrote, “is like fighting a battle; and trying to paint a picture is, I suppose, like trying to fight a battle.”

The Art of Diplomacy thus brings together over thirty of Churchill’s paintings, photographs, letters, films, and personal belongings as it guides the viewer from Churchill’s early artistic career in the late 1910’s to his prodigious, inter-war period and, finally, to his late works leading up to his passing in 1965. Divided into eight sequences, the exhibition will span the Millennium Gate’s three major galleries, two period rooms, and its technology center, including sections on: Origins, Mentors, and Political Rebirth, 1915-1921; Technique and Tactics, 1922-1930; Hobbies, Political Wastelands, and the Rise of the Nazi Party, 1930-1939; World War II and a Sunset in Marrakech, 1939-1945; Art as Diplomacy in the Post-War Era, 1945-1965; Legacy, 1965-Now; Chartwell and Chequers; and Churchill and Georgia. The Millennium Gate additionally hopes to borrow two paintings that Churchill gave to his closest World War II allies – President Franklin Roosevelt and President Dwight Eisenhower – representing the first time that these works would ever be showcased together.

In comparison to previous exhibitions of Churchill’s work, The Art of Diplomacy presents a novel interpretation that places the act of painting at the center of Churchill’s evolving leadership – and, by extension, at the heart of twentieth century history. As Churchill wrote, “If it weren’t for painting I could not live. I couldn’t bear the strain of things.” If he was right – in the words of esteemed art historian Ernst Gombrich – “his painting may have helped to save Western civilization.”


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