Painting of Dunkirk owned by Winston Churchill goes on public display at his former home Chartwell for first time following conservation and repair
Winston Churchill’s first weeks in office as Prime Minister was marked by his famous wartime speech in which he declared, ‘we shall fight them on the beaches’ following the evacuation of Dunkirk in May-June 1940.
Now, following extensive conservation and intricate repair, a painting owned by Churchill that depicts that famous rescue of troops has gone on public display for the first time at his former home, Chartwell in Kent.
The oil on canvas painting by wartime artist Ernest Townsend shows some of the 300,000 soldiers evacuated safely from France following Nazi Germany’s invasion. It was gifted by the artist’s son to Churchill in 1947.
In the years after the war, with thousands of gifts being offered to Churchill from around the world, the sheer volume meant he could not accept them all. This was one of those where he replied that he would be ‘honoured to accept’.
The gift of the painting came at a significant point for Churchill and may have influenced his decision to accept it – it was during 1947-48 that he was writing about the Dunkirk operation for volume 2 of his book, History of the Second World War.
The painting (1457 x 1240 mm, 4 ft, 7in x 4ft) was originally delivered to Churchill at his London home but was then moved to Chartwell. It is hoped further research may uncover where it was originally hung at Chartwell, but at the time the inventory of contents was drawn up in 1965 after Churchill’s death, the painting was recorded as being in his studio in the garden