June 5, 2023

LONDON – A painting that first belonged to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and is now being sold by actress Angelina Jolie raised the art of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to a new league of prices at auction at Christie’s on Monday.

Koutoubia Mosque Tower (1943) sold for £ 8.3 million or about $ 11.5 million for a fee – a record for a work of art by Churchill, an avid amateur painter.

Churchill gave Roosevelt his Impressionist painting of a sunlit Marrakech with the Atlas Mountains in the background as a birthday present in 1943 after a decisive meeting in Casablanca during World War II to discuss the long-term strategy. Churchill persuaded Roosevelt to spend an extra day in North Africa. Marrakech was a popular subject for Churchill paintings.

“You can’t come all the way to North Africa without seeing Marrakech,” Churchill told the president, according to the Christie’s catalog. “I have to be with you when you see the sun go down in the Atlas Mountains.” The work is considered Churchill’s only landscape to be painted during the war years and documents the view of the two statesmen in the Taylor villa on the outskirts of the city.

More recently, in 2011, the Brad Pitt painting was purchased for $ 2.95 million from antique dealer MS Rau in New Orleans and given to Jolie as a gift. The celebrity couple married in 2014 but initiated divorce proceedings in 2016. In Christie’s catalog, the work was listed as “Property of the Jolie Family Collection”.

The work turned out to be the star lot of Christie’s evening auction of modern British art in London. Estimated for about to sell $ 2.09 million $ 3.49 million was acquired from an undisclosed phone buyer. The same phone buyer bought two other Churchill paintings as part of the sale, including the 1935 scene “Scene in Marrakech” for $ 2.6 million.

The previous auction high for a Churchill painting in 2014 was $ 2.75 million for The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell from 1932. shows the garden of the politician’s country house in Kent.

“Academics have always viewed him as a Sunday painter, but there has always been a following for him, especially in America,” said Alan Hobart, director of the London-based Pyms Gallery, who mentioned an exhibition dedicated to Churchill’s paintings at the Dallas Museum of Art 1958. “But it was Roosevelt, Hollywood and Churchill. It was all there. “

Churchill’s article on “Painting as a Pastime” appeared in Strand Magazine in 1921 and 1922. According to the International Churchill Society, this journalism earned the politician the “handsome” sum of £ 1,000, or about $ 66,700 of today’s money, “considerably more than his pictures would make in his life. “