Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill (1874 - 1965) as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports 1956

Bernard Hailstone 

Portrait of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill (1874 - 1965) as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Bernard Hailstone
Oil on canvas
20th Century
36 x 28 inches 91.4 x 71.1 cm
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In 1955 the Courts of Brotherhood and Guestling of the Confederation of Cinque Ports, the ancient union of England’s defensive southern ports,
Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, Romney and Hastings, commissioned Bernard Hailstone to paint a portrait of their Lord Warden and Admiral. This office, medieval in origin and England’s oldest military honour, had been held since 1941 by Winston Churchill, who was to remain Lord Warden until his death. In September of that year, The Times commented in a prophetic encomium: “to this august tradition of Keeper of the Gates of England and Watcher of the English Seas, Mr. Churchill now succeeds. As First Lord in two wars he has fully qualified to preside in this ancient shrine of the seafaring tradition. As the dauntless leader of the Nation in the moment of its greatest peril he can wear the symbolic dignity as no other man can do.”

Hailstone’s portrait captures the sense of these lines superbly. As the last commissioned portrait of Churchill it is an extremely powerful image, an impression heightened by the aspect of patient defiance as much as by the Lord Admiral’s magnificent uniform. This latter is much-enhanced by Churchill’s plethora of decorations, many of them for his military exploits, stretching back to the Sudan campaign of 1898. The chief decoration that Churchill wears is the sash and star of the Order of the Garter, which was conferred in April of the previous year.
This present work is preliminary to the full-length portrait which The Cinque Ports presented to Churchill on September 7” 1955, which is now in the collection of the Imperial War Museum.

Bernard Hailstone’s patronage encompassed many eminent sitters, and the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal have all been painted by him. He first came to prominence in 1941, when he attracted the attention of Kenneth Clark, then Director of the National Gallery, who commissioned him as the official war artist of the Ministry of Transport. During this period he produced his celebrated paintings of the Blitz. His first commission as a portraitist came in consequence of his work for the Ministry, when in the Far East he was asked to paint a portrait of the Earl Mountbatten, a sitter, the artist noted, not without some vanity. Shortly afterwards, when Mountbatten’s portrait was hanging in the Imperial War Museum, Hailstone was requested by the sitter to add some newly-acquired medals to the finished painting.
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