CHURCHILL BACK IN BUSINESS, WEEK 2
We have just marked the one week anniversary of our reopening. It feels good to be back. To celebrate, we placed in our store window the largest, most beautifully framed original print of Yousuf Karsh’s iconic photographic portrait of Winston Churchill that you are anywhere likely to see.
Armenian-born photographer Yousuf Karsh’s incomparable portrait of a scowling Winston Churchill (“The Angry Lion”) was taken December 30, 1941 in an ante-room of the Ottawa House of Commons, following Churchill’s address to the Canadian Parliament. As official biographer Sir Martin Gilbert wrote in his own memoir, In Search of Churchill, Churchill was, at the time, “in [a] happy mood… He had just made a successful speech [‘Some chicken… some neck’]. He had left the parliamentary chamber smiling… Karsh had hoped for something stern and warlike. To secure the picture he wanted, he went up to Churchill and plucked the cigar out of his mouth. ‘By the time I got back to my camera,’ Karsh later recalled, ‘[Churchill] looked so belligerent he could have devoured me. It was at that instant that I took the picture.‘”
Though Karsh apologetically preceded his audacious cigar removal with the words, “Forgive me sir,” Churchill never entirely forgave the affront. Over the years, he was asked again and again to sign prints of Karsh’s photograph and almost never agreed. We have only ever handled one Karsh photo signed by Winston Churchill. It came from the estate of a prominent leader of the French Resistance and included correspondence from Churchill’s principal private secretary, Sir John Colville, indicating that Colville had three times placed the photograph on his boss’s desk for signing and that Churchill had three times ignored him, but that Colville finally had prevailed.
Karsh initially printed this image on a very small scale — 5 ¾ x 7 ½ inch prints on 7 x 10 inch photo paper. Once the image appeared on the May 21, 1945 cover of Life magazine, though, and very quickly became the definitive Churchill portrait, Karsh began to sell larger and larger prints of it to collectors. Ours is, in fact, the largest size that Karsh employed during his lifetime; 16 x 20 inches. The print is signed by Karsh in ink on the lower left corner of the white border beneath the image, and is museum matted and spectacularly framed (29 x 23 inches overall).
You really should come see it.
We wish you health and safety at less and less of a social distance, inviting you to visit us, all vaccinated, here at Chartwell Booksellers, where we are really back in business.