The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell was the last painting created by British politician, writer, army officer, and painter Winston Churchill. It was believed to have been created somewhere around 1962 after he retired from his position. However, there was a first painting depicting the same Goldfish Pool that Churchill painted at around 1930s and became a treasured possession of his daughter Mary. The last painting was less popular than the first one as it wasn’t published nor reproduced. Between the two paintings, the latest focused more on the waters of the pool rather than the scenery as a whole which was the imagery depicted in the first Goldfish Pool painting.
Context and Story
Winston Churchill was talented at being a leader, a writer, and finally as an artist. But he didn’t start painting until he reached his forties. He wouldn’t get serious with it until 1955 after he retired from his position. At the time, he started using children’s paint box but soon moved to the medium he loved – oils.
Churchill painted Impressionist paintings evident in the thick and hurried strokes of the paintbrush. And true to Impressionism art movement, most of Churchill’s works were landscape paintings. He often painted the sceneries he would visit during his travels.
One of his most beloved spots is the goldfish pool at his garden at Chartwell. He’d always feed the golden orfe that swims around in the pool. In fact, the descendants of the very school of fish Churchill fed were still at their original location.
The former army officer has already found love with painting ever since he was younger. In fact, he entered a contest where he won an amateur prize for his painting entitled Winter Sunshine, Chartwell. It encouraged him to keep his hobby and continue painting.
He has also sent five of his paintings for an exhibit in Paris during the 1920s, four of which were sold at £30 for each one. However, earning money was never his intention, to begin with. Churchill was simply delighted to be painted, and that was what kept him going throughout his lifetime.
When he sent his paintings to Paris, he was under the pseudonym, Charles Morin.
Old vs. New
Churchill has painted the said goldfish pool a couple of times.
The first one was made in 1932. He painted the scenery from his garden, focusing on the pool. You can see the golden fishes swimming on the water, surrounded by green foliage.
Meanwhile, the second goldfish pool he painted as well as his last work was different. It zoomed in on the water, focusing on the fishes. While the earlier version was more green, the latter was a mixture of red, oranges, and browns. Some would even say it was borderline abstract.
The first painting was given to his daughter, Mary. Meanwhile, the last painting was gifted to Sergeant Edmund Murray who acted as Churchill’s bodyguard and friend. According to stories, Murray would go with Churchill wherever he went, bringing along his paint box so he can paint whenever he wanted to.
However, the latter one didn’t have any title. It was only cataloged as no.C544.
If there’s one key element with almost all of Impressionist paintings, it’s the difference between light and shadow. Painters often choose to paint outside so they can copy exactly how light affects the surrounding.
The 1932 painting The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell may have been painted at a brighter day when the foliage was at its best shade of green. The water was clear and reflecting the greenery of the trees and plants around it. The shades differ from the reflection on the water to the plants on land.
The only pop of color was the orange creatures swimming at the pool. And even then, the water reflects the clarity of the sky.
Meanwhile, the last painting was darker with more brown than green, almost like it was painted either at dusk when the sky was tinged orange from the setting sun or around autumn when the leaves are falling from their branches.
There’s also the thick and quick brushstrokes which are common for Impressionism paintings. Impressionist painters have developed the technique so they can quickly paint the effect of lighting on the subjects they are painting in real life.
The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell wasn’t the only painting Churchill did. He also created several other landscape paintings in the Impressionism style.
Most of Churchill’s paintings were of landscapes. He has already painted spots from the British countryside to the amazing Egyptian pyramids. Usually, his paintings were majestic sceneries. He drew seascapes at different times of the day and in different weathers.
Churchill also loved painting views from afar. For example, his painting of the Egyptian pyramids showcased the architectural structures from afar. They were almost blurred and in one with the distant sky. The painting also showed the Nile River snaking through the deserts of Egypt.
Which is why The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell seemed different than most of his paintings. It was a zoomed in picture of his subject, focusing solely on the water and its inhabitant instead of the bigger picture.
However, there are several paintings where he painted indoor scenes. One of his indoor paintings was A Room at Breccles, Norfolk.
The former army office painted over 500 paintings over his lifetime and that he rarely went out without his paint box. Nonetheless, he wasn’t able to sell his works and instead, gave them as presents to close friends and family members.
The later version of The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell, for example, was given to Murray.
With over 500 paintings drawn, it’s tough to get a list of every Winston Churchill paintings. However here are some of the most well-known paintings that continue to make him one of the most iconic painters of modern times.
- View at Mimizan (1920)
- Daybreak at Cassis (1920)
- Mimizan Plage, Landes (1920)
- Racecourse, Nice (1921)
- The Harbour at St. Jean Cap Ferrat (1921)
- Distant View of the Pyramids (1921)
- View of Jerusalem (1921)
- Lullenden Manor (1922)
It should also be noted that the Anglo-French painter, Paul Maze inspired Churchill. They met during World War I, and the artist encouraged Churchill to continue with his hobby.
Goldfish Pool at Chartwell Resources
Mellor, Maria. Winston Churchill: The Artist Behind the Politician. Arts & Collection. Retrieved from https://www.artsandcollections.com/article/winston-churchill-the-artist-behind-the-politician/
Robbin, Ron Cynewulf. The Artist Winston Churchill: Half Passion, Half Philosophy. National Churchill Museum. Retrieved from https://www.nationalchurchillmuseum.org/the-artist-winston-churchill.html
Sothesby’s. (2017, October 19) Sir Winston Churchill’s Last Painting. Retrieved from https://www.sothebys.com/en/articles/sir-winston-churchills-final-painting
International Churchill Society. Painting as a Pastime – The Last Canvas. Retrieved from https://winstonchurchill.org/publications/finest-hour/finest-hour-178/painting-pastime-goldfish-pool/