Odd poem: French Verse on painting, by Winston Churchill

La peinture á l’huile
Est bien difficile,
Mais c’est beaucoup plus beau
Que la peinture á l’eau.

The translation: “Oil painting / Is certainly hard, / But it’s much lovelier / Than watercolour.” For reasons unknown, Winston Churchill came up with what is almost a Clerihew in style, but in French, as a comment in his little 1948 book ‘Painting as a Pastime‘.

Churchill first took up painting in 1915 at age 40 when he was removed as First Lord of the Admiralty. His fall was a result of the disastrous Dardanelles and Gallipoli attacks on Turkey that he had organised.

He took up painting for distraction, but it became increasingly a part of his life. He didn’t have hopes of making money from his “daubs”, and didn’t consider he had mastered the art. As he wrote in that slim book, “When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting, and so to get to the bottom of the subject.” Early on he submitted and exhibited under pseudonyms as a way of assessing his abilities without the influence of his name. In 1921 he exhibited at Galerie Druet in Paris under the pseudonym Charles Morin and sold six paintings for £30 each. In 1947 he submitted paintings to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition under the name David Winter, and was successful with two of them.

He continued to paint for over 40 years, landscapes when the weather was obliging, still lifes when stuck indoors. Wherever he travelled–Morocco and Egypt, France and Italy, Jamaica, Canada and the US–his easel, brushes and paints went with him and were put to use. He produced at least 500 paintings, giving many away and not keeping records of them. You can see several of his paintings here if you scroll to the bottom.

‘Photo: Churchill painting a view of the Sorgue river in 1948, photographer unknown

1 thought on “Odd poem: French Verse on painting, by Winston Churchill

  1. Pingback: Odd poem: ‘Changsha’ by Mao Zedong | Form in Formless Times

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