Winston Churchill's painting for screen star Vivien Leigh goes on sale

Sotheby's | Detail of Winston Churchill's 'Roses in a Glass Vase', estimate £70,000-100,000
Text by: Anna SANSOM
2 min

A still-life of roses by Winston Churchill, given to screen star Vivien Leigh, was unveiled to the public for the first time on Monday at Sotheby’s auction house in London.


Churchill, who was British Prime Minister during World War II, enjoyed painting landscapes and still-lifes in his free time and gave his flower paintings to those dearest to him.

'Roses in a Glass Vase' reveals the story of his long-lasting friendship with the star of 'Gone with the Wind'.

Depicting flowers picked from Churchill’s garden at Chartwell, his country home in Kent, it was given to Leigh in 1951, when Churchill hosted a birthday dinner for her husband, Laurence Olivier.

Leigh hung the painting on the wall opposite her bed. Subsequently, she sent Churchill a bouquet on his 90th birthday.

Estimated at £70,000-100,000, the painting is set to be a standout lot in Sotheby’s auction of Leigh’s personal collection, including more than 20 artworks, on 26 September 2017. It is being sold together with a photograph of Churchill in his studio at Chartwell, showing the painting hanging on the wall.

Leigh and Churchill first met in 1936, when they were introduced by a film producer. Although Leigh was a little-known actress and Churchill an established politician more than twice her age, it was the start of a friendship that lasted until Churchill’s death in 1965.

In 1950, Churchill gave Leigh an inscribed copy of his book, 'Painting as a Pastime', which inspired Leigh to take up painting, as evidenced in her Italian landscape included in the sale.

Churchill's affection for Leigh is expressed in a letter dated 18 July 1957, in which he promises to donate money to St James’s Theatre in London, which she was trying to save.

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