As Great Britain’s prime minister during World War II, Winston Churchill was responsible for cementing his country’s wartime alliance with the United States. The son of an American mother and an English father, he ultimately came to personify that alliance, and his wartime eloquence and shrewdness endeared him nearly as much to Americans as to his own countrymen. In recognition of his special place in the story of Anglo-American relations, Congress made him an honorary citizen in 1963. Early in 1945, Churchill met with his two allies, Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin, at the Russian town of Yalta, where they reached agreements on strategies for the last phases of World War II.
To commemorate the Yalta Conference, Roosevelt suggested that artist Douglas Chandor portray the trio at the conference table. The painting was never completed, however, because Stalin refused to sit for it. Chandor did paint the study of Churchill and the two formed an instant rapport during enjoyable discussions of art. Churchill was an avid painter himself, and once said: “If it weren’t for painting, I couldn’t live; I couldn’t bear the strain of things.” Chandor was also painting a portrait of Mrs. Churchill at the time, and while the artist worked on her portrait, the two men would discuss painting techniques and approaches. The portrait was completed on March 19, one day before Churchill returned to England. After closely examining the work, Churchill gave his verdict: “I think it’s admirable. I would recognize it immediately. It’s a masterpiece.”
- What is your eye drawn to as you examine this portrait? Why?
- What might the visual clues found in this portrait tell us about Churchill?
- Describe Churchill’s gaze and what/who could he be looking at? Why do you think this?
- Compare this portrait of Churchill with Douglas Chandor’s portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt. What do you notice? And why might this be?
- Take a closer look at The Big Three at Yalta sketch in Roosevelt’s portrait. How does this portrait of Churchill compare to the sketch?