Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Life Sketch for the Victory Portrait of Sir Winston Churchill, 1942

Alfred Egerton Cooper 

Life Sketch for the Victory Portrait of Sir Winston Churchill,, Alfred Egerton Cooper
Pastel on paper
20th Century
19 x 15 inches 48.3 x 38.1 cm
Private Collection
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Although this pastel sketch of Sir Winston Churchill is preparatory to a very public image -the Profile for Victory which was employed as a wartime propaganda poster- it is a remarkably private glimpse of the Prime Minister. The subsequent oil paintings are -appropriately to their function- informed by Churchill's celebrated, public characteristics and embody the famous ''bulldog'' spirit of courage and defiance in the face of a powerful enemy. The present pastel, by contrast, may be a more realistic impression of the sitter's inner humanity.

Unusually, the portrait was not the result of an official commission. Cooper first sketched the Prime Minister in secret, having pretended to be an assistant to the King's sculptor who was then engaged in Churchill's portrait. The subterfuge gained him entry to the Presence, and his talent assuaged Churchill's anger at the deception, and ensured the completion of what was to become one of the most striking propaganda images of the war.
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