Wide Angle

Britain’s wartime leader Winston Churchill and his Marrakech paintings

During his visits to Morocco, former United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill enjoyed painting in Marrakech. One of his paintings will be auctioned in the UK for the first time.

Winston Churchill painting in Marrakech. / DR
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Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and war hero Winston Churchill had a soft spot for Morocco. During the previous century, he visited the country for political missions and artistic ones.

The Kingdom, and especially Marrakech, was home to his artistic endeavors as an amateur painter. In March 2021, one of the pieces he painted while in Marrakech will be auctioned in the UK for the first time.

«Scene at Marrakech» has an estimated value of between £300,000 (about US$404,000) and £500,000 (about US$673,000).

The painting, which brings together the city’s warmth and quality of light, was the product of a 1935 visit, the start of his love story with Morocco. His granddaughter Celia Sandys described the moment. «My grandfather first went to Morocco in December 1935», she wrote in an article published by the Winston Churchill organization.

«Like all his travels it was a working holiday, during which he would paint seven canvasses, write three chapters ofMarlboroughand a number of newspaper articles, and discuss politics with Lloyd George and Lord Rothermere, who were also wintering in the North African sun».

This visit was the first of six he made to Morocco over the course of 23 years. These visits include the one that brought him together with US President Roosevelt, Sultan Mohammed V and the Allied forces to discuss a strategy against the Axis powers during the North Africa landing.

Painting Marrakech

«Morocco was to me a revelation», Churchill wrote in a 1936 article in the Daily Mail.

«Captivated by Marrakesh. Here in these spacious palm groves rising from the desert the traveler can be sure of perennial sunshine, of every comfort and diversion, and can contemplate with ceaseless satisfaction the stately and snow-clad panorama of the Atlas Mountains. The sun is brilliant and warm but not scorching; the air crisp, bracing but without being chilly; the days bright, the nights cool and fresh».

Churchill loved Marrakech in the winter. There, he enjoyed the company of his longtime friend Pasha Thami El Glaoui. There, he painted the Koutoubia and Kasbah mosques, both in 1936 and 1943, and the Atlas Mountains, during his picnics in the Ourika Valley.

In 1943, he painted the Marrakech sunset while visiting Morocco for the Casablanca conference. According to the Telegraph, Churchill attended a celebration at the villa Taylor, a property owned by a wealthy New York family in Marrakech.

The villa, Yves Saint Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle, had a tower where Churchill liked to paint the sun leaving the sky of Marrakech.

Churchill’s love for Marrakech was translated into his paintings. To Britain’s wartime leader «Marrakech is simply the nicest place on Earth to spend an afternoon», something he described so well with his brushes.

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