Winston’s muse

Difficulties, setbacks, misfortune…these things sent to try us. What else can be done other than to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm til everything is yare again? The human spirit has a fail safe for turmoil: retreat to a place of safety to convalesce and eventually re-evaluate.  For one young man, the muse of painting was his salve, and throughout his long life he would employ brush, oils, and canvas to nourish his soul and keep the ‘black dog’ on a leash.

Born at Blenheim, and cousin by marriage to our dear friend Consuelo, this young man had ambition beyond measure.

Conseulo and Winston
Consuelo and Winston

Straight out of school, he attacked life with vigor, eager to take his place among his noble and heroic ancestors.

Marlborough Tapestries at Blenheim
Marlborough Tapestries at Blenheim, featuring the noble and heroic ancestors

Our young man traveled the world to find battlefields upon which he could test his mettle and as he collected commendations, he wrote books about his adventures and campaigns, and prepared himself for a life in politics.


He dodged the blades of Dervishes as he rode in the cavalry charge at Omdurman. He faced down the barrel of a Boer’s gun as he was taken prisoner in Africa. He spent his birthday getting shot at in Cuba. Eventually he made his way in to politics and in a very short amount of time he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty.

His meteoric rise was to suffer a terrible setback when his plans for a major campaign in Turkey had disastrous results calling in to question his suitability for the post. He was forced to resign from the position he had worked so hard to achieve, and he retreated with his family to a country home in Surrey where he brooded over his misery. His family and friends were very worried about him, and he himself believed that his career was over.  But one day he noticed his sister in law Goonie painting in the yard and he was inspired to try it himself.  So enamoured was he that he outfitted himself with all the trappings of an artist and immersed himself in his new hobby.

a dab hand indeed-one of his very first paintings
Hoe Farm, his refuge at a time of self doubt and misery. Our young man was a dab hand indeed-this is one of his very first paintings

His friends and family did all they could to encourage this diversion from his troubles and they were very pleased to see his spirit renew. His neighbor, Sir John Lavery  was an accomplished painter and mentored our young man with delightful results.

photo 1
Sir John Lavery in the studio where they worked together so often. This was painted at the very start of Winstons painting career
Lady Gwendoline Churchill ("Goonie")
Lady Gwendoline Churchill (“Goonie”)

“The Muse of Painting came to my rescue- out of charity and out of chivalry, because after all she had nothing to do with me-and said ‘ Are these toys any good to you? They amuse some people.’ “

Soon our young man was able to gather his wits and start over, returning to the scene of his previous successes: the field of battle . Off he went to the frontlines where he took over command of a battalion in Belgium-and painted.

fighting in Ploegsteert,Belgium
fighting in Ploegsteert,Belgium
photo 2
Lawrence Farm, headquarters at Ploegsteert

He built his career back up from there, and for the rest of his life, our young man would paint to reflect, to relax, and to keep the worries if not away, then at least abated.

photo 1
Pyramids of Cairo
A State Room at Blenheim
photo 4
photo 2
Cap d’Ail, near Monaco
photo 4
Ruins of the cathedral at Arras. A copy of a work by our other dear friend John Singer Sargent
photo 5
Tea at Chartwell. Diana Mitford is second from the left, our friend in the center
photo 3
when our dear Consuelo ditched Sunny Marlborough she married Jacques Balsan and they settled here, at Chateau St-Georges-Motel in Normandy. Our friend visited often.
photo 2
Marrakech.The only painting our friend ever made during the Second World War. He gifted this one to President Roosevelt who was with him at the time it was painted

“Armed with a paint-box, one cannot be bored, one cannot be left at a loose end, one cannot ‘have several days on one’s hands'”

4 thoughts on “Winston’s muse

  1. Very well done Bebe! I’ve always been intrigued by WC spending so much time aboard Ari Onassis’s yacht still paintung away as a Lion in Winter.


    1. Thank you gsl! It is particularly thoughtful of you to comment on my little scribbles today
      Winston was prolific -I may do a follow up post with some of my favorites. It all began after that terrible Gallipoli business.


    1. It seems that Victoria really started the trend of royal mimicry. The improvements in mass communication probably assisted this influence but it seems that so many of the standards of acceptable behavior that we still use today began with QV.
      Can you imagine having nothing to more to challenge your mind other than painting and flower arranging? I would enjoy them as an option, but not as the apogee of my abilities.
      Thanks for reading!


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