Home / NEWS / Churchill may have been a national hero, but according to his niece he couldn’t paint and never listened to anyone

Churchill may have been a national hero, but according to his niece he couldn’t paint and never listened to anyone

Over the course of his lifetime Winston Churchill, more famously known around the world for inspiring the British people in the face of Nazi Germany, was an enthusiastic amateur artist – saying he found painting relaxing at times of stress.

The walls of Chartwell, his home in Kent, are still lined with some of the 544 sketches, portraits and landscapes he produced and only last November the final painting completed by Churchill before his death, The Goldfish Pool At Chartwell, smashed estimates when it was sold at auction for £357,000.

But in fact the wartime Prime Minister was a poor artist with no sense of beauty.

That damning verdict comes not from a snobbish art critic, or even an embittered political rival , but from one of those closest to him.

Clarissa Eden, Churchill’s niece and the widow of Anthony Eden, his foreign secretary and future PM, says: “My uncle didn’t have a good eye. He did painting; they were quite nice. But he wasn’t an aesthete.”

Churchill’s image as the lion-hearted prime minister on the cusp of political immortality has recently been reinforced by Gary Oldman’s Oscar-nominated portrayal of him in Darkest Hour as an inspirational orator, rallying Britain and routing would-be appeasers.

But Clarissa Eden, the Countess of Avon, goes out of her way to remind us that the Tory leader was in fact “a failure” for much of his political life, out of office and at odds with his colleagues.

“I always knew him as a great man who hadn’t been appreciated. Most of my [early] life he was a failure. He was out of a job, out of work and not right in anything he believed in,” she says in an interview with Spear’s, the wealth management and luxury lifestyle magazine published today.

“He was in exile, so to speak. Going to Chartwell [the Churchills’ home in Kent] before the war was going to a place in exile – a place where people were not doing anything. It was all rather frustrating and sad.”

Clarissa Eden (3rd from left) after her wedding to Anthony Eden (2nd from left), with Clementine Churchill (L) and Winston (R)

Countess Eden, now 97, was certainly in a position to observe her uncle’s political and personal fortunes from close quarters.

She is the daughter of Jack Churchill, the younger brother of Winston, and Lady Gwendoline Bertie, daughter of the Earl of Abingdon.

Not only was she the niece of Britain’s most famous prime minister and married to one, her grandfather Lord Randolph Churchill, was chancellor of the exchequer in the 1880s

And Countess Avon, who lived through the 1956 Suez crisis at her husband’s side in Downing Street – when she famously remarked “the Suez Canal flowing through my drawing room” – is critical in her assessment of Churchill as a man, suggesting he was prone to being self-centred and ignoring those around him.

She says of visits to Chartwell, the home Churchill shared with his wife Clementine from 1922 until his death in January 1965 and which is now run by the National Trust and open to the public: “It was just him. One went and there was him and nothing else. They had the lunch or whatever it was, and he would talk and one would listen; that was the important part.

“But he was not interested in what anybody else had to say. If somebody famous was at lunch he would listen to them, but on the whole he didn’t pay any attention to anybody.”

Clarissa Eden, Countess of Avon, at her west London home

Justin Sutcliffe

Countess Avon, a friend of Cecil Beaton, the society photographer and designer, and Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, also challenges another of the commonly-held beliefs about Churchill, that he consumed a copious amount of alcohol.

Asked if he drank too much she says: “‘No, not more than most men.”

Providing a fascinating insight into a man who went on to become a national hero, she says that time spent around her uncle was endlessly fascinating.

“It was interesting always because Winston was so interesting,” she says. “One always wanted to know what he was thinking and doing.”

For all his setbacks Churchill did of course achieve greatness, eventually, she says.

“By the end of his life he was very great, wasn’t he? It would be very difficult not to realise that he would be remembered.‘He was exceptional, certainly.”

Countess Avon adds: “I think I realised he was very great in spite of the fact that everyone kept telling one that he was.”

And in answer to the question of whether he was the greatest British prime minister of the twentieth century his niece has a succinct answer: “Who was greater?”

Churchill’s final painting, The Goldfish Pool At Chartwell, which he gave to his bodyguard before he died 


Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/02/churchill-may-have-national-hero-according-niece-couldnt-paint/

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