What is the mission of the Millennium Gate Museum?

The Millennium Gate Museum’s mission is to preserve and interpret Georgia history, art, culture and philanthropic heritage as well as highlight Georgia’s historical and aesthetic relevance to the United States and to the world.

What is the narrative of the exhibition?

The Art of Diplomacy at the Millennium Gate Museum places painting at the heart of the story of Winston Churchill’s leadership. This exhibition showcases how painting rescued Churchill from depression and despair in 1915, putting him on the road towards his finest hour. It demonstrates how the act of painting, and the skills Churchill learned from his hobby, contributed to his ability to think about how best to confront the rise of Nazi Germany, and highlights how he used his painting skills to make his leadership during the Second World War more effective. The exhibition invites the visitor to consider whether painting may have contributed to saving Western civilization, a sentiment put forward by the respected art historian, Ernst Gombrich.

How did the exhibition get started?

Rodney Mims Cook, Jr. and Duncan Sandys were introduced by cousins of Sandys’ who are friends of Cook. On learning about Sandys family’s collection of Churchill paintings, Cook asked to explore collaborating on an exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill (January 24, 2015).

Where do the paintings come from?

The Millennium Gate Museum’s initial goal was to exhibit 25 paintings by Winston Churchill. Having surpassed expectations, the museum is now bringing together over 30 paintings, most of which have never before been exhibited. Many of the paintings come from the collection of Churchill’s grandson, Julian Sandys, who inherited some from his grandparents and others from his mother, Diana Churchill.

In addition to the Sandys Collection, The Art of Diplomacy will also display Churchill paintings from collectors around the world, including two of particular prominence: “The Tower of the Katoubia Mosque” (1943), which was the only work Churchill painted during World War II; and “Lake Geneva, Switzerland” (1946), which was given by Clementine Churchill to The Chequers Trust, the organization that oversees the British Prime Minister’s country house (and the British equivalent of Camp David).

What inspired the Georgia preview tour?

When research for the preview tour began, the exhibition organizers thought that there was only a limited connection between Georgia and the Churchill family. As research continued, however, a more extensive, multi-century and multi-generational connection was uncovered. The Preview Tour, which will travel to several Georgia cities, was conceived as a way to celebrate the Churchill family’s Georgia connection.

In the early 1700s, Winston Churchill’s ancestor and great statesman and soldier John Churchill (subsequently the first Duke of Marlborough, for whom Blenheim Palace in England was built) taught military tactics to a young James Oglethorpe (subsequently the founder of the Colony of Georgia). Oglethorpe’s brother was appointed John Churchill’s aide-de-camp, and John Churchill recommended James Oglethorpe for appointment as aide-de-camp to Churchill’s partner in the Blenheim campaign, Prince Eugene of Savoy.

Winston Churchill visited Atlanta in February 1932 with his eldest daughter, Diana, as part of a lecture tour. He stayed three days and lectured at the old Wesley Memorial Chapel, spoke at a ROTC Parade on Grant Field at Georgia Tech and stayed at the Biltmore Hotel.

In September 1943, General George Marshall arranged for Churchill’s youngest daughter, Mary Churchill (later Lady Soames, who died aged 91 in May 2014), to visit Fort Oglethorpe, the training camp for the Women’s Army Corps (WACs). Mary Churchill served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the UK equivalent of the WACs.

In March 1944, Mart Bailey of the Callaway family of Georgia taught Winston Churchill how to fire a Tommy gun in of a shooting competition with General Eisenhower.

In early 1946, Winston and Clementine Churchill visited Savannah en route to Miami for some winter sunshine ahead of his Iron Curtain speech in Fulton, MO. Churchill also visited Bernard Baruch, a prominent philanthropist, several times in Savannah.

In 1949, Churchill’s younger daughter Sarah appeared in The Philadelphia Story at the Penthouse Theatre atop the now-demolished Ansley Hotel. After the play’s closing, Sarah traveled to Sea Island, Georgia with her fiancé, the society photographer Anthony Beauchamp. On October 18, 1949, they were married on Sea Island, subsequently the site of the 2004 G8 Summit.

On October 22, 2005, Duncan Sandys (Winston Churchill’s great-grandson) married Mary Brown Brewer of Macon, GA at Lovely Lane Chapel (Epworth-by-the-Sea) on St Simon’s Island. They held their reception on Sea Island. In 2011, they moved from London to Atlanta, where they currently reside.

Why is the preview tour opening in LaGrange, Georgia?

The Callaway family was helpful in researching the various Georgia connections to the Churchill family, including their own.

Why is the exhibition only coming to Georgia, and why specifically to the Millennium Gate?

Duncan Sandys, a major collaborator on the exhibition and Churchill’s great-grandson, proposed that The Art of Diplomacy remain within the state of Georgia. Having adopted Atlanta and Georgia, Sandys wants to bring this unique exhibition exclusively to the state he now calls home.

The Millennium Gate Museum showcases Georgia’s historical excellence and connection to the world at large. It is the museum’s mission to showcase exhibitions of this type, a distinct endeavor within the state that is unique among its sister institutions.

What other exhibitions of Churchill’s work have taken place?

Paintings by Winston Churchill have been exhibited across the world in group and solo shows alike. The first such showing was of a self-portrait, which was exhibited at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1919.

The first major exhibition of Churchill’s paintings occurred in 1958 at the encouragement of President Eisenhower. Opening at the Smithsonian, the exhibition of 35 paintings travelled to over 10 locations across the United States and Canada. Due to its success, the exhibition subsequently traveled to locations in Australia and New Zealand before returning to London, where it was displayed as the Royal Academy of Art’s first solo exhibition of an amateur painter.

In the 1970s there were two significant exhibitions hosted by art galleries in London. Both exhibitions in large part displayed Churchill family-owned paintings and others loaned by the National Trust, which owns and operates Churchill’s home, Chartwell.

In 1992, in collaboration with the National Trust, the Reagan Presidential Library hosted an exhibition of approximately 50 paintings by Churchill. A smaller exhibition traveled to other Presidential Libraries.

In 1998, Sotheby’s in London hosted an extensive Churchill paintings exhibition, Painting as a Pastime, which similarly borrowed heavily from the National Trust collection at Chartwell and from members of the Churchill family.

The Art of Diplomacy at the Millennium Gate Museum is the first significant exhibition of Churchill’s paintings on either side of the Atlantic for more than 15 years. It is the first exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death, and unlike previous exhibitions, draws upon a majority of never-before-exhibited works from private collections in the United States and the United Kingdom.

How does this exhibition differ from past Churchill art exhibitions?

The Art of Diplomacy at the Millennium Gate Museum places painting at the heart of the story of Winston Churchill’s leadership. Previous exhibitions of Churchill’s paintings examined painting solely as his hobby.

How did you come up with such a unique angle?

Winston Churchill both wrote and spoke about the effect of painting on him. In 1921-22, Strand Magazine published two articles written by Churchill on painting. In 1948, these articles were published in a single volume entitled Painting as a Pastime.

To create the exhibition’s unique narrative, we researched Churchill’s writings on family life, hobbies, friendships and diplomatic alliances and considered them in light of his leadership. This led us to view painting as a central element of Churchill’s approach.

Is there a particular painting that best illustrates the narrative?

While the skills Winston Churchill learned from painting contributed to making his leadership more effective, he also used painting to achieve political and diplomatic goals. The story of “The Tower of the Katoubia Mosque” best illustrates this strategy.

In January 1943, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met in Casablanca to agree the timing for what was to become D-Day. Under pressure from Marshal Stalin, who wanted to open a Western front in 1943, Churchill was convinced that it would not be successful until 1944 at the earliest. President Roosevelt had not expressed a preference, and Churchill sought the Casablanca meeting to convince him of his position. Over the course of 10 days, Churchill negotiated a successful conclusion with Roosevelt, on January 24, 1943 the two leaders announced to the world that they had been in discussions on war strategy.

Following the press conference, President Roosevelt wished to begin the arduous journey back to Washington, but Churchill the painter had other plans. Wishing to seal the agreement and personal friendship he knew he needed beyond all doubt, he invited Roosevelt to accompany him to Marrakech to watch the sun set over the snows of the Atlas Mountains. It was a scene that had captivated him seven years earlier. Despite the arduous and dangerous five hour journey across the desert, Roosevelt agreed to accompany his warrior colleague. Arriving in Marrakech, they repaired to a villa that Churchill knew that was now the home of the American Vice-Consul. President Roosevelt was carried up to the top of the tower from where he watched the sunset. A photographer captured the moment of the President’s face bathed in sunshine watching the sun go down. The Prime Minister is not watching the sun, but is watching his new friend, laser focused that he enjoyed the experience to the fullest extent. Some present said that the President had experienced a spiritual-like experience in the beauty of the moment. After dark, the celebratory mood continued with a “jolly dinner” and singing.

With the President leaving early in the morning, they said their goodbyes that evening. But in the morning as he was about to depart, Roosevelt called on Churchill to make a second farewell. Even with the passage of time, the President remained captivated by the events of the previous twelve hours. Climbing out of bed, Churchill insisted on accompanying the President to the airport…in his dressing gown and slippers! On his return, Churchill set up his easel to paint the daytime view from the villa’s tower – the only painting he attempted during the Second World War – which he gave to the President as a memento of their joint visit to Marrakech and a reminder of the critical decisions they had cemented at Casablanca.

Why did Churchill paint?

Winston Churchill found solace in painting. It was a form of therapy that enabled him to rest and refresh from the strain of political life. He also found that the skills he learned from painting contributed to his arsenal of leadership abilities, making him a more effective leader.

When did he start to paint?

In May 1915, following a meteoric political rise, Churchill found himself at the nadir of his life. Politically, he was dead, and personally, he was angry and depressed, focusing his considerable energy on how he would win World War I were he to be Prime Minister. His depression was acute, to the degree that he named it “the black dog.” This period undoubtedly put a strain on his marriage and family life.

That summer, having rented a house in the country south of London, Churchill stood one afternoon watching his sister-in-law paint. Noticing his interest and hoping to turn his focus away from politics and war, Goonie (Lady Gwendoline Churchill) suggested he try to paint. Churchill acquiesced and, to general astonishment, began what would be an enormously productive and therapeutic artistic career.

How many paintings did he paint?

Churchill painted from 1915 until 1959/60. In that time he painted more than 500 canvases. It is estimated that he painted approximately 300 canvases during the 1930s (what are known as his “wilderness years,” when he was out of office but critically analyzing how best to confront Nazi Germany). He attempted one painting between the declaration of war on September 3, 1939 and the end of the 1945 General Election campaign in July 1945, after Victory in Europe.

What do the paintings depict?

Most of Churchill’s paintings are of landscapes, but as an amateur painter who did not take his hobby too seriously, he was prepared to be bold and attempt new approaches. Over the years, he received unsolicited and solicited advice from professional painters, those with whom he painted, and others – although he never had any formal training. As a consequence, his repertoire includes landscapes, still lifes, portraits and a variety of scenes that captured his imagination. Churchill’s paintings represent both his travels and his favorite locations, particularly Blenheim Palace and Chartwell.

Were any of Winston Churchill’s family members creative?

Only one descendent has become a professional artist. Edwina Sandys is a self-taught artist and sculptor who was enthused by watching her grandfather. He was the first artist she saw at work. Edwina’s latest work, “Finest Hours,” will be displayed as part of The Art of Diplomacy at the Millennium Gate Museum.

What kind of reaction has your exhibition received in England?

Every element of the Churchill world – from the family, to the Churchill Centre, Churchill College at Cambridge, others in academia including David Coombs, the definitive academic source for Churchill’s paintings, to supporting organizations – have been highly enthusiastic about The Art of Diplomacy at the Millennium Gate Museum. What has excited them is the new, fresh angle that the exhibition examines.

Who is supporting the exhibition?

The Art of Diplomacy at the Millennium Gate Museum is being generously supported by a wide range of organizations across the State of Georgia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The exhibition has attracted support from individuals, corporations, and non-profits.

What is included in the permanent collection at the Millennium Gate Museum?

The Millennium Gate Museum contains thousands of items, from pre-Columbian and pre-Christian native Georgia artifacts, to Spanish colonial gold and British colonial silver and armaments. The museum features three period rooms: an 18th century Colonial study from Georgia’s Declaration of Independence signer Lyman Hall’s Midway, Georgia; the 19th century office of Coca-Cola magnate Thomas K. Glenn during his simultaneous tenure as president of Atlantic Steel and the Trust Company of Georgia; and the 20th century drawing room of Pink House, the Rhodes-Robinson home designed by Philip Shutze and Edward Vason Jones.