Everybody knows the name Winston Churchill. Everybody knows how crucial his role was in the Second World War and so it will come as no surprise that Paris has honoured the great former British Prime Minister with both a statue and a namecheck on the city map.
Of course throughout his political career Churchill visited Paris many times but there is one visit that I find particularly interesting. One he made in 1921.
Churchill was known for having many talents – not only an exceptional politician and a master-negotiator, Churchill had a creative side that he nurtured throughout his life. He was a writer of many books and also a painter.
In January 1921 he visited Paris in his official capacity as Britain’s Colonial Secretary. He was there to discuss increasing his responsibilities to cover both Palestine and Mesopotamia but while in the City of Light, he had also arranged to do something else – something a little more clandestine.
In a famous gallery on Rue Royale, the Galerie Druet, Churchill held a secret exhibition of his paintings using the pseudonym Charles Morin. Although one of his paintings had already been displayed publicly two years earlier by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, this is the earliest recorded example of a collection of his works on display at the same time.
The prices were apparently modest and later that same year, Churchill wrote to a friend, “I have been doubtful about selling any of them because I don’t think they are good enough and also because I am steadily improving. Nevertheless as several people have been asking to buy, I have said that I will sell them at £50 a piece.”
Today, his paintings sell for considerably more than £50 and can be visited in internationally-renowned galleries such as the Tate Modern, the Royal Academy and the Smithsonian.
It’s unlikely that you’ll go to Paris and buy an original Churchill as you could have done in 1921. Instead, why not take a stroll down the grand avenue that bears his name and visit his statue outside the Petit Palais.
I think it’s wonderful that the French capital has honoured Churchill with such prominence – his experience of Paris was clearly more than just political.
Avenue Winston Churchill is located at the end of the Champs Elysées closest to Place de la Concorde and is shown on the map below. The statue is found on the same road. The nearest metro station is Champs-Elysées Clemenceau.