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A recent visit to Winston Churchill’s studio in the grounds of Chartwell, his home in Kent, inspired the Archives Assistants to explore artistic treasures in the Archives Centre’s own collections.
While it is no secret that Churchill himself discovered the pleasures of painting in his forties and went on to produce over five hundred pictures, the artistic talents of the other twentieth-century politicians, diplomats, military figures, intellectuals, and scientists whose papers we hold are perhaps less well known. A new display in the Archives Centre reading rooms, ‘Art in the Archives: Creativity in the Churchill Era’, presents a selection of documents illustrating the rich and varied expressions of creativity found amongst our records.
Along with Churchill’s paintings and childhood drawings, highlights of the exhibition include a watercolour found in the midshipman’s log book belonging to the fifteen year-old John de Robeck, later Admiral of the Fleet; a poignant wartime drawing by the artist, soldier, and Bright Young Thing, Rex Whistler; leaves from the sketchbook of poet, novelist, and ceramic sculptor Sasha Moorsom Young; and a set of enchanting intimate sketches by Hedi Born, wife of the pioneering German physicist and mathematician Max Born.
The display also traces art through the written records in the collection — a whimsical note from the painter Philip Burne-Jones to Lady Randolph Churchill provides a window onto aristocratic society in Edwardian London, while a series of letters from Aesthetic movement artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and George Frederic Watts to the collector Mrs Eustace Smith sheds new light on an infamous divorce scandal in late Victorian Britain.
This temporary exhibition is on display in the Archives Centre’s reading rooms, which are free to use and open to registered researchers Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm.
— Heidi Egginton and Julia Schmidt, Archives Assistants
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