The Soul of Churchill

William Orpen (1878-1931), Churchill in 1916. Photo:

In 1916, at one of the greatest moments of despair in Churchill’s life, an official war artist was painting his portrait. He commented when he saw the canvas, “It is not the picture of a man. It is the picture of a man’s soul.” At age 41 Churchill suffered one of the greatest political setbacks of his life. After the disastrous Battle of Gallipoli, 1915-16, fought in the Dardanelles Straits and the Gallipoli peninsula, he resigned his office in the Asquith government, having taken the blame for the terrible tragedy and loss of life during the catastrophic campaign. It is during this lowest time of Churchill’s career, as the Dardanelles Commission was convened to investigate, that this revealing portrait was painted. Though the commission on the matter did not find him personally at fault, he was forced to resign his cherished post of First Lord of the Admiralty. The Irish artist Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen (1878-1931), having been recommended by John Singer Sergeant, became an official British war artist during the time of the First World War. The Churchill family, through the Churchill Chattels Trust has loaned the striking, life-sized portrait to The National Portrait Gallery, London. The rarely seen portrait will be on display for public viewing from 1 November 2012 and will remain on long term loan by agreement with the estate of the late Winston S. Churchill (grandson of Sir Winston). The portrait previously hung in the home of Sir Winston’s grandson. (Text: The Churchill Centre and Museum, Chartwell Bulletin. November 2012,