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Two-page typed letter signed to the artist Walter Sickert.

[together with:] CHURCHILL, Clementine. Two-page typed letter of condolence signed to Thérèse Lessore Sickert, Walter's widow, salutation, subscription and postscript in manuscript on 10 Downing Street stationery, dated 24 January 1942.

Chartwell Manor: 20 September 1927 Stock Code: 135858
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"A new lease of life as a painter" - Churchill consults Sickert on technique

A wonderfully characterful pair of letters from Winston and Clementine relating to their long-term friendships with the great British painter Walter Sickert (18601942) and his artist wife, Thérèse (née Lessore, 1884-1945), strongly suggestive of Churchill's very real emotional and intellectual investment in the practice of painting.

While Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he "received in person and by letter an intense course in painting from Sickert" (Baron, Sickert, p.520). In the present letter Churchill acknowledges receipt of "another most interesting letter from you", explaining that the painting he had been referring to was "of course your beau ideal of a landscape" which he has "turned into a camaïeu according to your command". The language is telling. Camaïeu, a technique of painting "in many thin, superimposed coats of paint, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly before repainting", was employed by Sickert in his portrait of Churchill, taken at around this time and which represents "a practical demonstration of the method Sickert sought to impart in his letters". At the same time Sickert also advised Churchill on the Panafieu technique of painting over a black and white photographic image projected on canvas, "to overcome his lack of expertise as a draughtsman" (Soames, Winston Churchill: His Life as a Painter, p. 72). Sickert's instruction was evidently successful as these were certainly techniques which Churchill mastered and employed thereafter.

Churchill goes on to suggest that as Clemmie has "been ordered abroad for a rest", they might have a "further conclave" at Chartwell at the weekend; "I would have several camaïeus in various stages of preparation for you inspection, and then you could then show me how the colouring stage proceeds... Once more thanking you for your many kindnesses". The suggested meeting did indeed take place, Winston recounting to Clemmie in his "Chartwell Bulletin" of his doings in her absence; "Sickert arrived on Friday night and we worked very hard at various paintings and had many discussions. I am really thrilled by the field that he is opening up to me. I see my way to paint far better pictures than I ever thought possible before. He is really giving me a new lease of life as a painter" (Gilbert, Companion V, p.1054).

Churchill met Sickert in 1927 through his wife Clementine, whose family had first encountered the painter when wintering in Dieppe in 1900, circumstances explained in Clemmie's affectionate reminiscences of Walter sent to Thérèse two days after the painter's death in 1942: "We saw Mr. Sickert almost every day. He used to come and see us in the evenings and, although I was only a child, I was rivetted sic and thrilled by his conversation... Two years after in Paris... Mr. Sickert took me out for a whole day; showed me the Luxembourg Gallery, took me to tea with Pissaro and to supper with M. Jacques Blanche... The memory of that day has visited me ever since". An autograph postscript remembers Thérèse's "short visit to Chartwell a few Summers ago" which was "a great pleasure to Winston & me", and extends an invitation to visit, "if ever you are in London".

Churchill had taken up painting in 1915 following his dismissal as First Lord of the Admiralty due to his role in the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign. This was perhaps his first encounter with the notorious Black Dog: "I still remained a member of the Cabinet and 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 I had great anxiety and no means of relieving it; I had vehement convictions and small power to give effect to them At a moment when every fibre of my being was inflamed to action, I was forced to remain a spectator of the tragedy, placed cruelly in a front seat" (Painting as a Pastime, p. 16). It was at this point that "the Muse of Painting came to my rescue", he was watching his sister-in-law Goonie, Lady Gwendoline Churchill, painting, and she encouraged him to try his hand, and he was immediately utterly smitten, falling for painting with a passion. He subsequently took lessons from such as Sir John Lavery, Oswald Birley, and of course Sickert, and was even offered an opportunity to exhibit, anonymously, in France in the 1920s, which he declined. He never claimed to be a professional artist, and certainly not a great one but for the rest of his life he looked to painting for solace and as true recreation, finding that painting; "is complete as a distraction. I know of nothing which, without exhausting the body, more entirely absorbs the mind. Whatever the worries of the hour or the threats of the future, once the picture has begun to flow along, there is no room for them in the mental screen. They pass out into shadow and darkness. All one's mental light, such as it is, becomes concentrated on the task" (p. 31).

A wonderful glimpse of Churchill in the thrall of one of his true passions.

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Quarto, 2 leaves of laid paper watermarked Joynson Superfine (253 x 200 mm), rectos only.


Creases from old folds into four to both, a little handled, but overall very good.


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