'The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky': Rare painting by Winston Churchill featuring the wartime leader's favourite brand of whisky fetches nearly £1million at auction

  • Painting - entitled 'Jug with Bottle' - features Johnny Walker whisky, which was Churchill's favourite brand
  • At auction, the rare work sold for £983,000 which is five times above the pre-sale estimates for the painting
  • Churchill gave it to American businessman W. Averell Harriman, who was US special envoy to Europe in 1940s
  • It makes work among most expensive pieces by wartime leader who considered himself an amateur painter 

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A rare painting by Winston Churchill featuring the British World War II leader's favourite brand of whisky fetched nearly £1million at auction in London.

The 1930s oil painting, of a bottle of Johnny Walker's Black label whisky and a bottle of brandy with a jug and glasses, sparked a bidding battle before it sold for £983,000.

The sale, at a Sotheby's online auction of modern and post-war British art, was around five times above pre-sale estimates and among the highest ever reached under the hammer for a Churchill painting.

A member of staff poses with a rare painting by Britain's former prime minister Winston Churchill entitled 'Jug with Bottles'  and featuring his favourite brand of whisky which sold for almost £1 million at Sotheby's auction house in London yesterday

A member of staff poses with a rare painting by Britain's former prime minister Winston Churchill entitled 'Jug with Bottles'  and featuring his favourite brand of whisky which sold for almost £1 million at Sotheby's auction house in London yesterday

Winston Churchill (left) donated the painting to W. Averell Harriman (second from the left) who acted as US special envoy to Europe in the 1940s. Pictured: Winston Churchill, Averell Harriman, Stalin and an unknown man in the Kremlin in Moscow

Winston Churchill (left) donated the painting to W. Averell Harriman (second from the left) who acted as US special envoy to Europe in the 1940s. Pictured: Winston Churchill, Averell Harriman, Stalin and an unknown man in the Kremlin in Moscow

The war-time leader, who was a keen amateur artist, created the still life work - entitled 'Jug with Bottles' - in the 1930s at his country house Chartwell, in Kent, southeast England.

For Churchill, his beloved family home Chartwell, like painting, became a retreat from the stresses of political life.

Churchill's hand-written breakfast menu 

Winston Churchill's extravagant breakfast preferences were revealed in a hand-written menu from 1954.

He requested that his enormous meal be brought in on two trays. 

He lists in his own hand: '1st Tray. Poached egg, Toast, Jam, Butter, Coffee and milk, Jug of cold milk, Cold Chicken or Meat.

'2nd Tray. Grapefruit, Sugar Bowl, Glass orange squash (ice), Whisky soda.' 

He then adds: 'Wash hands, cigar.' 

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Churchill, who once delivered the quote, 'The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky', was known to be a lover of Johnny Walker Black Label.

He also famously said, 'Whiskey has killed more men than bullets, but most men would rather be full of whiskey than bullets.' 

The painting reflected Churchill's fondness for the brand, which he often drank first thing in the morning with soda water, according to Sotheby's.

He later gave it to the American businessman W. Averell Harriman, who acted as US special envoy to Europe in the 1940s.

Harriman was photographed sitting between Churchill and Stalin in Moscow in 1942, and the gift of the painting suggests he shared convivial drams with Churchill.

The famous politician would give paintings to 'like-minded people,' said Simon Hucker, co-head of modern and post-war British art at Sotheby's, ahead of the auction.

It is unclear whether Churchill knew that Pamela Churchill, the wife of his son Randolph, was having an affair with Harriman during this period.

Pamela Churchill married Harriman decades later in the 1970s and the painting was sold following her death in 1997.

It was back on sale on Tuesday after the deaths of the later owners, US collectors Barbara and Ira Lipman.

Throughout his lifetime, Churchill would go on to create more than 550 paintings, describing it as 'my rescue in a most trying time' in his book Painting as a Pastime. 

A similar work by Churchill, featuring a collection of bottles and called 'Bottlescape', still hangs at Chartwell.

Sir Winston Churchill, pictured here engrossed in his hobby while in Miami Beach, Florida, in 1946, would go on to create more than 550 paintings during his lifetime, describing it as 'my rescue in a most trying time' in his book Painting as a Pastime

Sir Winston Churchill, pictured here engrossed in his hobby while in Miami Beach, Florida, in 1946, would go on to create more than 550 paintings during his lifetime, describing it as 'my rescue in a most trying time' in his book Painting as a Pastime

Churchill created the still life Jug with Bottle work while at his beloved family home Chartwell, in Kent, during the 1930s

Churchill created the still life Jug with Bottle work while at his beloved family home Chartwell, in Kent, during the 1930s

Churchill's daughter-in-law Pamela married Harriman in the 1970s and the painting was sold following her death in 1997

Churchill's daughter-in-law Pamela married Harriman in the 1970s and the painting was sold following her death in 1997

The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell, which depicts the pond at his Kent home, was painted in 1932 and sold for £1.8 million at auction in 2014.

It was auctioned at Sotheby's with 14 other works, following the death of his daughter Mary Soames and was considered one of his masterpieces by experts.

It had been given an estimated value of £400,000-£600,000. 

Another painting, Tapestries at Blenheim, sold for £1m, while his depiction of The Harbour, Cannes, fetched £722,500. 

'We will fight them on the beaches': Churchill's most famous wartime speeches

Winston Churchill's rousing speeches inspired a nation and played a key role in Britain's morale during the dark early days of the Second World War.

It was a time when the country was almost at its knees, with men dying and morale sinking.

But Churchill's defiant and powerful words allowed ordinary Britons, soldiers, sailors and airmen to feel hope.

He replaced Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister on May 10 1940. 

Days earlier, the 'phoney war', the period of relative calm following the declaration of war on September 3, 1939, had ended with the German invasion of France, Belgium and Holland.

Churchill's first speech as premier to the House of Commons, three days later, would go down in history as one of his most famous. 

Winston Churchill delivers a rousing speech during the dark days of WWII

Winston Churchill delivers a rousing speech during the dark days of WWII

He said: 'I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: 'I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.'

'We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.

'You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.

'You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

'Let that be realised; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal.

'But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time, I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, 'Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.' '

 

 Extract from his first broadcast as PM to the country on May 19, 1940.

'I speak to you for the first time as Prime Minister in a solemn hour for the life of our country, of our Empire, of our allies, and, above all, of the cause of freedom . . .

'It would be foolish . . . to disguise the gravity of the hour. It would be still more foolish to lose heart and courage or to suppose that well-trained, well-equipped armies numbering three or four millions of men can be overcome in the space of a few weeks, or even months...

'Side by side, unaided except by their kith and kin in the great Dominions and by the wide empires which rest beneath their shield — side by side, the British and French peoples have advanced to rescue not only Europe but mankind from the foulest and most soul-destroying tyranny which has ever darkened and stained the pages of history.

'Behind them — behind us, behind the armies and fleets of Britain and France — gather a group of shattered states and bludgeoned races: the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians — upon all of whom the long night of barbarism will descend, unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must; as conquer we shall.

'Today is Trinity Sunday. Centuries ago, words were written to be a call and a spur to the faithful servants of truth and justice, 'Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar. As the Will of God is in Heaven, even so let it be.' '

 

Extract from his Commons speech on June 4, 1940, after the evacuation of 338,000 Allied troops from Dunkirk.

'I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.

'At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty's Government — every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength.

'Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous states have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.

'We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.'

 

Extract from his Commons speech on June 18, 1940.

'What General Weygand [the French Allied commander] called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.

'Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us.

'Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

'But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

'Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.' '

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His brightest hours: Winston Churchill plays with his grandchildren in charming photos at Chartwell

Candid snaps show how Winston Churchill, who led Britain from the brink of defeat to victory during the Second World War, playing with his grandchildren at his family home in Kent.

The photographs were taken in 1951, a year after Churchill was installed as Prime Minister for the second time after losing the General Election in 1945 - the year the six-year war ended.

The former Prime Minister is seen looking relaxed and happy as he sits in a swinging chair in the garden of the home in Chartwell in Kent, with his wife Clementine and five of their grandchildren.

Black and white photograph show Winston Churchill with his grandchildren and wife at his family home in Kent

Black and white photograph show Winston Churchill with his grandchildren and wife at his family home in Kent

Inside Churchill's Chartwell residence, which he bought in 1922 for £5,000 and then spent another £20,000 on it

Inside Churchill's Chartwell residence, which he bought in 1922 for £5,000 and then spent another £20,000 on it

The snaps were taken in 1951, a year after Churchill was re-installed as Prime Minister after losing the the General Election in 1945 - the year which the six-year war ended. Pictured, Churchill's wife Clementine (on the right)

The snaps were taken in 1951, a year after Churchill was re-installed as Prime Minister after losing the the General Election in 1945 - the year which the six-year war ended. Pictured, Churchill's wife Clementine (on the right)

Pictures also show him Churchill sat inside his library and walking around the grounds of his home near Westerham, Kent

Pictures also show him Churchill sat inside his library and walking around the grounds of his home near Westerham, Kent

Photos also show him sat inside his library and walking around the grounds of his home.

Other images show him reading in his library and inspecting the grounds of his country home near Westerham.

Despite returning to the highest office, he appears relaxed and at ease as he is photographed on an outdoor swinging chair with Clementine and grandchildren Julian, Winston, Arabella, Arthur and Emma.

There is also an amusing image of Churchill, cigar in mouth, with his dog perched against his leg.

The intimate snaps were captured by his friend Harold David John Cole, the former president of the Royal Photographic Society.

They were taken at Churchill's family home, which is set on a hill overlooking an incredible view of Kentish woodland.

He bought it in 1922 for £5,000, spent another £20,000 on it and praised his purchase to his wife Clementine on the grounds that after his investment the house would be worth at least £15,000. 

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Rare painting by Winston Churchill fetches nearly £1million at auction

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