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Review: Winston Churchill, Painting on the French Riviera

Book cover showing old photo of Winston Churchill, painting on the French Riviera

Winston Churchill, Painting on the French Riviera is a beautiful coffee table book by Paul Rafferty. It’s a joy to read for any lover of art, Provence and Winston Churchill, voted the Greatest Briton…

Winston Churchill, Painting on the French Riviera

Churchill once declared that only one of his life’s ambitions had not been fulfilled – to be a great painter. And of some 600 paintings he produced, more than 130 of them were of Provence and the French Riviera which he called a “paintaitious” place.

Author Paul Rafferty, a highly successful artist in his own right who lives in Provence, became fascinated with Churchill’s journey as a painter. Over the course of writing the book he tracked down many of the locations Churchill painted and researched into Churchill’s history as a painter. The book is full of fascinating anecdotes so that you really get a feel for Churchill the man and painter, longing to capture the beauty of what he saw on canvas. There are photos of Churchill painting, often accompanied by several people from his bodyguard to his valet, his wife and his friends. And photos of his painting paraphernalia from easels and paints to his glasses which he would push to the end of his nose when painting. It’s like a peak into the past and the personal life of the man who had such an impact on history.

Life on the French Riviera

Rafferty delves into Churchill’s visits to Provence and what life was like at the time he spent there from the early to mid-20th century. There are anecdotes and accounts of the people that frequented the spots Churchill painted, such as Cap d’Antibes where Picasso and Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Cole Porter partied. Rafferty follows in the footsteps of the great man – from the scenes he painted to tracking down the sites and restaurants he favoured. The author spoke to Janine Philip Pomares, 92 year old owner of Restaurant Philip in Fontaine de Vaucluse which Churchill loved, and she recalled meeting him and that he particularly liked trout from the river. It’s these fascinating details that help to bring this book to vibrant life, alongside the stunning images.

Rafferty covers the friends Churchill spent time with, the artists and mentors who influenced his painting. There are fascinating snippets of history, the time he met Coco Chanel in the mid-1920s and how years later, his American publisher and friends bought her house in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and Churchill stayed there, sometimes for months on end writing and painting.

Stunning photos of Provence

The photos of the French Riviera, meticulously researched by Rafferty to mirror Churchill’s paintings, show how astonishingly little has changed over the years. The book reveals for the first time many newly discovered Churchill painting locations.

And the paintings themselves show that Churchill, despite his doubts about his own talents as a painter was an accomplished artist. You get a real insight into the passion he had for this creative pastime. And there are wonderful photos of the man himself, painting, often with a cigar, wearing a Stetson.

If you love art, Provence, the French Riviera, history, Churchill – you’ll love this fascinating and beautiful book.

Published October 2020 by Unicorn Publishing Group

Available from Amazon and all good book stores and via paulrafferty.art

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