Historical Portraits Picture Archive

A Portrait Bust of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) 1958

David McFall 

A Portrait Bust of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), David McFall
20th Century
21 inches 53.3 cm high 28 inches 71.1 cm wide
I.D.Feldman, N.Y.C., U.S.A in 1965; Private Collection, U.S.A until 1999
A private letter from the sculptor to Mr. Feldman (see footnotes)
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This monumental bust of Sir Winston Churchill was completed following a number of sittings with the great statesman at Chartwell in 1958. McFall was commissioned to create a full-length statue for Churchill's constituency in Woodford Green in what would be the the last sittings granted by Sir Winston before his death (1). The bust is one of six that were signed and dated by the artist in addition to and contemporaneously with the full-length statue (measuring 8 feet, 6 inches) that was unveiled by Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery, in the prescence of Churchill himself, on 31 October 1959 at Woodford Green. The other five versions exist at the Royal Academy (where it earned the sculptor a Royal Academy diploma), Gray's Inn, Westminster College at Fulton, Missouri, the University of Texas at Austin and Grocer's Hall.

This very limited edition should not be confused with the sculptor''s later production of smaller, head-only versions that were unsigned and markedly less spirited.

In a letter to the sculptor dated October 4th 1958, Churchill's wife Clementine expressed her sense of expectation on seeing the statue: ''I'm so glad that Monty is to unveil the statue. I'm longing to see it''. Whilst her initial opinion on seeing the full-length was that the likeness was unsympathetic however, (perhaps the evident weariness of the ageing statesman (he was 84) was too close to the truth for the comfort of familial affection), a note to her husband dated 14 March 1959 comments positively on the RA''s version of this ensuing bust. ''Presiding over your pictures at the Royal Academy is a very good bust of you in bronze by David McFall, the sculptor who did your statue for Woodford so badly at first...- but he has now remodelled the head of the statue & it is good''(2).

Two years previously, Yousuf Karsh had photographed Churchill, and wrote the following in his Portraits of Greatness; ''...I saw how greatly he had changed since our meeting in Ottawa (1941). The massive strength was still there but it had slowed down. The man of action had become a man of thought. Yet what thoughts moved behind that magnificent and battered face only Sir Winston knew...I studied that incredible man ...and saw a face lined with wisdom and experience, eyes that observed the world with patience, knowlege, authority, and no illusions;...Here was England incarnate. I was watching, it seemed to me, old John of Gaunt himself and in the background ''this other Eden, demi-Paradise.'' At this sudden flash of communication I clicked the shutter to record a Churchill aged, tired but immortal''.

Whatever the outside opinion of Churchill''s health at this stage, he ignored all advise to slow down and cancel public speaking engagements. On 20 April 1959 he addressed a crowded meeting of his constituents, and announced at the conclusion that he was ready to offer himself once again as their candidate in the forthcoming general election. He won a majority of 14,797 in the General Election of 8 October that year, having spent early Spring in the company of President Eisenhower at the Whitehouse and attracting record crowds to an exhibition of his painting at the Royal Academy. Doctor''s orders for rest following a stroke a mere week before his election campaign at Woodford were thus healthily ignored.

1)The sculptor wrote to Mr Feldman from the Royal Academy of Arts on May 4th 1965; ''I was the last artist to be granted sittings by Sir Winston. I am satisfied beyond doubt that no other painter or sculptor was allowed to work from him after the completion of my bust in 1958, other ''portraits'' done since then cannot be regarded as authentic. Lady Churchill declared to me that this was her intention at the time, and it appears that she did not change her mind.''

2)Taken from Speaking For Themselves, Mary Soames pg.631
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