Painting as a Pastime


Winston Churchill (1874–1965)

Churchill painting

Churchill at the Surf Club, Miami Beach, 1946

Winston Churchill took up painting “at the advanced age of forty,” as he puts it. He explains why in an article written for The Strand Magazine in 1921: “When I left the Admiralty at the end of May, 1915, I still remained a member of the War Council. In this position I knew everything and could do nothing. The change from the intense executive activities of each day’s work at the Admiralty to the narrowly measured duties of a counsellor left me gasping. Like a sea-beast fished up from the depths, or a diver too suddenly hoisted, my veins threatened to burst from the fall in pressure. I had great anxiety and no means of relieving it; I had vehement convictions and small power to give effect to them. I had long hours of utterly unwonted leisure in which to contemplate the unfolding of the war. And then it was that the Muse of Painting came to my rescue.”

Churchill has high praise for painting as a hobby: “Inexpensive independence, a mobile and perennial pleasure apparatus, new mental food and exercise, the old harmonies and symmetries in an entirely different language, an added interest to every common scene, an occupation for every idle hour, an unceasing voyage of entrancing discovery–these are high prizes.”

He adds this encouragement: “If . . .you are inclined — late in life though it be — to reconnoitre a foreign sphere of limitless extent, then be persuaded that the first quality that is needed is Audacity.”

I recorded Churchill’s “Painting as a Pastime” for volume 46 of the Nonfiction Collection. I have to admit that I was a bit bemused by Churchill’s characterization of age 40 as an “advanced age . . . late in life,” considering I did not try painting until I was 74. Oh well . . .


If you enjoyed Painting as a Pastime, you will probably like
The Art of Landscape Painting in Oil Colour, by Alfred East