Framed SIGNED FORMAL WARTIME PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPH of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister

With the PM’s Presentation Slip

1941 (1945)

By: Walter Stoneman

4 1/2 x 5 inches [on 5 x 8 inch card mount] (Framed: 13 x 25 inches)

Item Number: 210690

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One of the most powerful photographs of Winston Churchill ever taken.

WALTER STONEMAN (1876-1958) regularly photographed Churchill for the portrait firm J. Russell & Sons. Churchill frequently used Stoneman’s bust-length portrait as his official photograph. Stoneman was not, however, working for J. Russell & Sons, but rather for the National Photographic Record, when he arrived at 10 Downing Street on the 1st of April, 1941 and was escorted up to the Cabinet Room.

Sensing the historical significance of the sitting, Stoneman recorded not just the date but the hour that his picture was taken: “3pm.” At that moment, Churchill was awaiting word of Germany’s invasion of Yugoslavia. Decrypted German Enigma messages had not only enabled him to predict Germany’s Balkan plans, they had revealed to him Germany’s “magnitude of design,” as he termed it, against its ally, Russia. As a result, Churchill made the dangerous decision to send a personal message of warning to Joseph Stalin. It was a message that Stalin would choose to ignore.

Reputedly, a copy of this photograph was kept by Stalin on his desk in the Kremlin. Stoneman also presented a copy to the National Portrait Gallery in London. It remains one of the most powerful photographs of Winston Churchill ever made, an image that predates Karsh’s “Roaring Lion” portrait by almost nine months.

The National Photographic Record was created in 1917 at Stoneman’s instigation. Eminent personalities were invited to sit for Stoneman at his studio and a single mounted print from each sitting was added to the Record. This collection of postcard-sized prints grew over the years to an archive of over 10,000 subjects, with approximately 200 new subjects added each year. For Churchill, on this particular occasion, Stoneman dispensed with the studio visit altogether, for obvious reasons. The result speaks for itself.

This is an original black & white gelatin print. It measures 4 1/2 x 5 inches and is floridly signed in ink on the mount (which measures 5 x 8 inches and bears Stoneman’s J. Russell & Sons photo stamp on the verso). The print is in very good condition, matted in linen with the original typed presentation slip on Prime Minister-headed notepaper: “With Mr. Churchill’s Compliments. March, 1945.” (It is worth noting that Churchill crossed the Rhine with General Bernard Montgomery on March 25, 1945.) The mount and presentation slip both have very slight paperclip shadows and faint creases. They are together spectacularly framed (13 x 25 inches inches overall).