Meetings in Marrakech

The exhibition in the Leighton House in London tells the fascinating story and brings together for the first time a unique collection of work by two painters: Sir Winston Churchill and Hassan El Glaoui. Winston Spencer Churchill (1874-1965) was an amateur painter since WOI. He first visited the Moroccan city of Marrakech in 1935. He would develop a lasting affection for the city, considering it ‘one of the loveliest spots in the whole world’, and was inspired to produce many paintings of its buildings and people, also during his visits in war time. Through these trips he befriended Hadj Thami El-Glaoui (1879-1956), the Pasha of Marrakech – also known as the ‘Black Panther’. Through Churchill’s intervention, the Pasha’s son, Hassan El Glaoui, was permitted to pursue his passion for painting – something that had not met with the Pasha’s immediate approval. Churchill’s influence had significant results. Hassan El Glaoui was the first Moroccan artist to establish an international reputation and today his work is among the most sought after contemporary North African art in the world. Reflecting on his career, Hassan explained: ‘a love of my country has been the defining spirit of my painting.’ This exhibition demonstrates that for Churchill too Morocco provided an inspiration that was profound. His meetings with the young painter’s father in Marrakech had a lasting impact and, despite such different starting points, a common sensibility and appreciation for the country is communicated in the work of both artists.