Rare painting by Winston Churchill fetches nearly £1million at auction

‘The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky’: Rare painting by Winston Churchill featuring the wartime leader’s favourite brand of whisky fetches nearly £1million at auction

  • Painting – entitled ‘Jug with Bottle’ – features Johnny Walker whiskey which was Churchill’s favourite brand
  • At auction, the rare work sold for £983,000 which is five times above the pre-sale estimates for the painting
  • Churchill gave it to American businessman W. Averell Harriman, who was US special envoy to Europe in 1940s
  • It makes work among most expensive pieces by wartime leader who considered himself an amateur painter 

A rare painting by Winston Churchill featuring the British World War II leader’s favourite brand of whisky fetched nearly £1 million at auction in London yesterday.

The 1930s oil painting, of a bottle of Johnny Walker’s Black label whisky and a bottle of brandy with a jug and glasses, sparked a bidding battle before it sold for £983,000.

The sale, at a Sotheby’s online auction of modern and post-war British art, was around five times above pre-sale estimates and among the highest ever reached under the hammer for a Churchill painting.

A member of staff poses with a rare painting by Britain’s former prime minister Winston Churchill entitled ‘Jug with Bottles’  and featuring his favourite brand of whisky which sold for almost £1 million at Sotheby’s auction house in London yesterday

Winston Churchill (left) donated the painting to W. Averell Harriman (second from the left) who acted as US special envoy to Europe in the 1940s. Pictured: Winston Churchill, Averell Harriman, Stalin and an unknown man in the Kremlin in Moscow

The war-time leader, who was a keen amateur artist, created the still life work – entitled ‘Jug with Bottles’ – in the 1930s at his country house Chartwell, in Kent, southeast England.

Chartwell was Churchill’s beloved family retreat away from the stresses of political life. 

Churchill’s hand-written breakfast menu 

Winston Churchill’s extravagant breakfast preferences were revealed in a hand-written menu from 1954.

He requested that his enormous meal be brought in on two trays. He lists in his own hand: ‘1st Tray. Poached egg, Toast, Jam, Butter, Coffee and milk, Jug of cold milk, Cold Chicken or Meat.

‘2nd Tray. Grapefruit, Sugar Bowl, Glass orange squash (ice), Whisky soda.’ He then adds: ‘Wash hands, cigar.’ 

Experts described how Churchill’s scotch of choice was Johnnie Walker, whose distinctive black and gold diagonal label is clearly evident on the bottle here, painted alongside a bottle of what appears to be brandy – the perfect backdrop to the translucent effect of the glasses and jugs set on a silver tray.

They added that the play of light and juxtaposition of objects clearly shoes the influence of famous still life painter, and friend of the family, Sir William Nicholson. 

It reflected his fondness for the Johnny Walker blend, which he often drank first thing in the morning with soda water, according to Sotheby’s.

He later gave it to the American businessman W. Averell Harriman, who acted as US special envoy to Europe in the 1940s.

Harriman was photographed sitting between Churchill and Stalin in Moscow in 1942, and the gift of the painting suggests he shared convivial drams with Churchill.

The famous politician would give paintings to ‘like-minded people,’ said Simon Hucker, co-head of modern and post-war British art at Sotheby’s, ahead of the auction.

It is unclear whether Churchill knew that Pamela Churchill, the wife of his son Randolph, was having an affair with Harriman during this period.

Pamela Churchill married Harriman decades later in the 1970s and the painting was sold following her death in 1997.

It was back on sale on Tuesday after the deaths of the later owners, US collectors Barbara and Ira Lipman.

A similar work by Churchill, featuring a collection of bottles and called ‘Bottlescape’, still hangs at Chartwell.

Churchill created the still life Jug with Bottle work while at his beloved family home Chartwell, in Kent, during the 1930s

Churchill’s daughter-in-law Pamela married Harriman in the 1970s and the painting was sold following her death in 1997

The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell, which depicts the pond at his Kent home, was painted in 1932 and sold for £1.8 million at auction in 2014.

It was auctioned at Sotheby’s with 14 other works, following the death of his daughter Mary Soames and was considered one of his masterpieces by experts.

It had been given an estimated value of £400,000-£600,000. 

Another painting, Tapestries at Blenheim, sold for £1m, while his depiction of The Harbour, Cannes, fetched £722,500. 

His brightest hours: Winston Churchill plays with his grandchildren in charming photos at Chartwell

Candid snaps show how Winston Churchill, who led Britain from the brink of defeat to victory during the Second World War, playing with his grandchildren at his family home in Kent.

The photographs were taken in 1951, a year after Churchill was installed as Prime Minister for the second time after losing the General Election in 1945 – the year the six-year war ended.

The former Prime Minister is seen looking relaxed and happy as he sits in a swinging chair in the garden of the home in Chartwell in Kent, with his wife Clementine and five of their grandchildren.

Black and white photograph show Winston Churchill with his grandchildren and wife at his family home in Kent

Inside Churchill’s Chartwell residence, which he bought in 1922 for £5,000 and then spent another £20,000 on it

The snaps were taken in 1951, a year after Churchill was re-installed as Prime Minister after losing the the General Election in 1945 – the year which the six-year war ended. Pictured, Churchill’s wife Clementine (on the right)

Pictures also show him Churchill sat inside his library and walking around the grounds of his home near Westerham, Kent

Photos also show him sat inside his library and walking around the grounds of his home.

Other images show him reading in his library and inspecting the grounds of his country home near Westerham.

Despite returning to the highest office, he appears relaxed and at ease as he is photographed on an outdoor swinging chair with Clementine and grandchildren Julian, Winston, Arabella, Arthur and Emma.

There is also an amusing image of Churchill, cigar in mouth, with his dog perched against his leg.

The intimate snaps were captured by his friend Harold David John Cole, the former president of the Royal Photographic Society.

They were taken at Churchill’s family home, which is set on a hill overlooking an incredible view of Kentish woodland.

He bought it in 1922 for £5,000, spent another £20,000 on it and praised his purchase to his wife Clementine on the grounds that after his investment the house would be worth at least £15,000. 

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