PAINTING AS A PASTIME
(Cohen A242) (Woods A125)
Churchill’s charming essay about his painting first appeared in The Strand Magazine in two parts: “Hobbies” (December 1921) and “Painting as a Pastime” (January 1922). He had been offered £1000 to write the essay, which accepted, although his wife tried to discourage the project. The Churchills’ daughter Mary, in her magnificent survey, Winston Churchill: His Life as a Painter (1990), recorded that Clementine “was in principle opposed to Winston’s writing what she regarded as ‘pot-boilers’ to boost their domestic economy.” Clementine protested that writing about his painting might draw criticism from professional painters and “cause you to be discussed trivially.” Winston often took his wife’s advice, but we should be glad that, on this occasion, he did not.
Painting as a Pastime “is pure enchantment to read,” his daughter continued, “throbbing as it does with enthusiasm and encouragement to others to seize brush and canvas and ‘have a go,’ as Winston himself had done before, when, under the flail of misfortune, he had discovered in painting a companion with whom he was to walk for the greater part of the long years which remained to him.”
There was nothing avant-garde about Churchill the artist. He worked in traditional oil-on-canvas, and he painted mainly landscapes—”Trees don’t complain,” he was wont to say about his subjects. Yet, he was also skilled at still life and portraiture. He had lessons from such accomplished painters as Sir John and Lady Lavery, Richard Sickert, and Paul Maze, and he effected a somewhat impressionistic style, although he “threw in plenty of my own,” as he said of his writing. He produced well over 500 paintings and was consistently modest about them, at first exhibiting under a pseudonym. Though he put none up for sale himself, he did allow one to be auctioned for charity.
He loved to give paintings away, and would carefully choose among his works for each recipient. Those who wanted one did best not to ask, but trust that a proper expression of enthusiasm for his “daubs” would result in a presentation. However, Churchill couldn’t bear to part with many of his works; the largest collection remains in his studio at Chartwell. Most experts agree that Churchill had real talent and could easily have developed into a professional, if only he had had the time.
The development of thePainting as a Pastime text was gradual. The “Hobbies” article appeared again in Nash’s Pall Mall (December 1925) and the Sunday Chronicle (“A Man’s Hobbies,” 20 April 1930); the two articles were excerpted as “I Ride My Hobby” in America’s Cosmopolitan (February 1926, reprinted March 1961). Churchill’s friend Lord Birkenhead published both together in The Hundred Best English Essays (Cassell: 1929). The two articles were reprinted as separate entries in Thoughts and Adventures (1932). In 1965, the complete essay was published in Country Beautiful magazine (Vol. 4, No. 2).
By the end of World War II Churchill’s hobby was well known and of considerable public fascination. Odhams Press persuaded him to issue the essays in book form, incorporating eighteen colour plates of his works to date, mostly recent ones. Publication was timely, as Churchill had just been elected “Honorary Academician Extraordinary” by the Royal Academy, and his paintings had been on display at the Academy’s 1948 summer exhibitions. Thus, the little book was an instant success, and it has had the widest circulation of any of his postwar single volume works.
-Richard M. Langworth
From the Reviews
“Birkenhead’s inclusion of this text in The Hundred Best English Essays was ridiculous; Painting as a Pastime has its merits, and is certainly pleasant reading, but by no stretch of the imagination can it rank among the great essays. One can only suppose its inclusion was a triumph of friendship over judgment; it was thus, however, that the book text was established, enabling Churchill in later years to offer art among his many talents. Its publication also produced a curious trend: quite suddenly prominent people became artists, including many wartime generals, admirals and ministers; and the rush for paints and easels became universal. Those who were not so successful were soon able to ‘paint by numbers.’ No one will blame Churchill for this, but alas he has a lot to answer for.
“The real interest of the book lies in the reason given by Churchill for taking up this pastime. After leaving the Admiralty in shame and despair in 1915, he writes, ‘the change from the intense executive activities of each day’s work at the Admiralty to the narrowly measured duties of a councilor left me gasping. Like a sea-beast fished up from the depths, or a diver too suddenly hoisted, my veins threatened to burst from the fall in pressure…And then it was that the Muse of Painting came to my rescue—out of charity and out of chivalry, because after all she had nothing to do with me—and said, “Are these toys any good to you?” They amuse some people.’
“In mythology there never was a Muse of Painting; perhaps it was some unknown, kindly goddess who offered him the ‘toys’ of his new trade. It hardly matters, for he accepted them with joy, and a new Corregio burst upon the world.”
-Henry Fearon (privately published)
Comments and Appraisal
The First Edition is always needed to make collections complete, but fine copies are in short supply; the ivory cloth binding soils as easily as the thin dust jacket tears or chips. Top boards often contain an offset jacket pattern. Brilliant copies are rarities.
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Cohen A242.1/ ICS A125a
Publisher: Odhams Press Ltd. / Ernest Benn Ltd., London, 1948
Ivory cloth blocked gilt with title and author’s name on top board and (reading up) on spine. 8vo, 66 pages numbered (i)-(ii) (+2), (iii)-(vi) and 7-32 plus frontispiece and 32 pages of colour plates on coated stock. Published December 1948 at 10s. 6d. ($2.10). Price in 1965 12s. 6d. ($1.75).
Impressions and Quantities
At least seven impressions: 1948 (25,000 copies); June 1949 (12,000); October 1949 (20,000); 1962, 1965 (twice); 1966. The 1962-65 impressions were bound in red leatherette with dark red around an image of Churchill artwork on the top board and blocked gilt and black on the spine. Some 1965 impressions were sold individually; some 1965 and all 1966 impressions were sold in sets of three with other Churchill or related books, similarly bound. The 1966 impression was in the Odhams Bookplan club series, with maroon boards blocked black.
Identifying first editions: verso of title page states, “First published in Volume Form. 1948.”
No variants of the First Edition are reported.
First Edition jackets are printed maroon with a black halftone photograph of Churchill at his easel (same as frontispiece) on top face.
The 1965 jacket, printed red and halftone, retains the original front face format and repeats it on the back face. The 1966 Bookplan jacket is blank on spine and rear face; front face carries a halftone photograph of the author with “CHURCHILL” printed black, “Painting as a Pastime” red and a line stating, “A Part of a collection of three illustrated volumes.” Rear flap is blank; front flap lists the three volumes: this one, Tomson’s Life and Times and Heath’s Churchill Anthology.
Cohen A242.2 / ICS A125b
Publisher: McGraw-Hill / Whittlesey House, New York, 1950
Blue-green cloth blocked gilt on spine: “WINSTON S. CHURCHILL…PAINTING AS A PASTIME” and publisher’s name, reading down. 8vo, 66 pages numbered (i)-(ii) (+2), (iii)-(vi) and 7-32 plus frontispiece and 32 pages of colour plates on coated stock. Published 1950 at $3.00.
Impressions and Quantities
There were at least three impressions, the first consisting of 20,000 copies. Sheets were supplied by the British printers, Hazell, Watson and Viney, Ltd.; the title page was altered only for the U.S. publisher’s name and its verso credits Amid These Storms (rather than Thoughts and Adventures) for the essay’s first appearance in volume form.
Identifying first editions: title page verso lists first publication in USA (1950) with no notice of subsequent impressions.
Variants and Dust Jackets
There are three distinct variants of this issue: 1) Whittlesey House: blue-green cloth, reading “Whittlesey House” on the jacket spine and “WHITTLESEY HOUSE | McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc. … New York 18, N.Y.” on the back face. 2) As above but in medium blue cloth binding. 3) McGraw-Hill: dark blue cloth; “McGraw-Hill” on the jacket spine and “McGRAW-HILL BOOK COMPANY, INC. | 330 West 42nd Street…New York 36, N.Y.” on the back face. (All variants carry “Whittlesey House” on the spine). The jackets are otherwise identical, containing a colour drawing taken from the frontispiece photograph on the front face and the painting “Near Antibes” in colour on the back face.
Comments and Appraisal
American Issues are of superior quality to the English, and the Whittlesey House version is often found in bright condition with clean dust jackets. The McGraw-Hill version is extremely rare. Whittlesey was a specialty subdivision of McGraw-Hill, so perhaps the latter imprint was produced as the official trade edition, while the volume went to Whittlesey. A truly fine jacketed McGraw-Hill format is probably worth double that of a Whittlesey format.
Cornerstone Library Issue
Cohen A242.4 / ICS A125c
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc., New York, 1961
This offprint from the First American Edition, subtitled “An instructive and inspiring invitation to the joy of painting,” was first published in 1961. It was reprinted twice in 1965 and once in 1966; the 1965 reprint was also offered in hardcover. All four paperback printings known carry a halftone cover photograph of Churchill by Philippe Halsman and a price of $1.00.
First impression: uncoated wrappers, black spine, blank on the insides; verso of title page states, “Reprinted, 1961.”
Second impression: coated wrappers, black spine, book lists inside both covers; verso notes “Reprinted 1965.”
Third impression: coated wrappers, solid black panels above and below cover photograph with extra type (“Includes 16 full color reproductions of Churchill’s paintings”), white spine, book lists inside both covers. (The second impression publisher’s address on inside back cover is “New York 20”; on the third impression this was updated to the new postal “Zip” code: “10020.”) Verso notes “Reprinted 1965.”
Fourth impression: as the third, but “Reprinted 1966” on title page verso.
Hardback variant: bound in laid white paper printed brown, green and red with a repeating oak leaf design on boards and spine; on top board the title, author name and a drawing of brushes and oil tube are printed red and green on white panel.
English Paperback Edition
Cohen A242.5 / ICS A125d
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth, Mdlsx., 1964
The text for this edition, Penguin Book number 2169, was completely reset , although the trimmed 32-page coated paper section contained the same plates as the original. Published 1964 at 6s. (84¢). At least three impressions; the second in 1965, the third in 1968. Wrappers printed orange and mauve. The front wrap contains a colour picture by graphic designer Leif Frimann Anisdahl (b.1937) of an artist’s palette complete with cigar; the back, a photograph of an agedChurchill and quotes from the book. Trifling value, although one of these inscribed by Churchill in late 1964 is know, undoubtedly one of the last, if not the last, book he ever signed.
Cohen A242.7 / Not in ICS
Publisher: Gump’s, San Francisco, 1985
This odd little edition of 500 copies, produced for the famous San Francisco department store, Gump’s, uses the same cover titles (reset) and artwork as the hardbound Cornerstone, but is otherwise very different. Boards are printed red and silver with a repeating oak leaf and acorn design; the frontispiece is the author’s painting, “Lady Churchill at the Launching of HMS Indomitable”; the cover title box and “GUMP’S | SINCE 1861” appears on the title page. A reference to Amid These Storms on the verso is followed by a new introduction by Winston S. Churchill, M.P., the author’s grandson. Another sheet contains a handwritten number (1-500) and note: “This book was printed at the Feathered Serpent Press, from type set by Anchor & Acorn, and bound by Cardoza-James in an edition of 500 copies.” Textual pages are numbered (i)-(viii) and 1-25 (+3). Many, if not all, copies were inscribed by Churchill.
Finnish: MAALAUS AJANVIETTEENÄ
Published by K. J. Gummerus Osakeyhtiö: Jyväskylä, 1950, in blue cloth; reissued in 1966 in bright green cloth with white dust jacket.
French: LA PEINTURE MON PASSE-TEMPS
Published by Editions de la Pax: Paris, 1949, in pale green paper boards with photograph of the author painting and a white dust jacket printed brown. A limited, numbered edition (1-3000, the first twenty “hors commerce”) was published in ivory cloth in the style of the English First Edition and came with the trade dust jacket.
German: PENSIL UND PALETTE ALS ZEITVERTREIB
Published by Hallwag: Bern, n.d., in dark green cloth; dust jacket black with red and white type and painting of “Near Antibes” in color.
Japanese: EGAKU TANOSHISHA
Published at 280 yen by Bijutsu Shuppansha: Tokyo, 1951, in dark grey/ green cloth; white dust jacket printed brown.
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