Winston Churchill's Emerald Lake painting sells at auction for thousands more than expected

A painting of Emerald Lake, B.C. by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sold at an auction for nearly six times its estimated value. As Reid Fiest reports, the buyer isn't known, but the seller hopes the historical piece will return to Canada.

A painting of Emerald Lake in the Rocky Mountains by Winston Churchill has sold at auction for much more than expected.

Churchill painted the work during a visit to the area near Field, British Columbia, in 1929 in the years before he became prime minister.

The heavily damaged painting was initially listed on the Sotheby’s of London auction site and was estimated to sell between C$11,000 and C$15,000.

The painting sold for C$87,257.


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“My family and I are obviously delighted at the sale price,” owner Bill Murray wrote in an email to The Canadian Press from his home in Devon, England, Tuesday.

“Even in its damaged state, it is a wonderful painting and the link with Sir Winston’s visit to your area in 1929, is just about unique.”

The painting was a gift from Churchill to Murray’s father, Sgt. Edmund Murray, who was his bodyguard from 1950 to 1965.

“Having read all the pre-sale reports in the Canadian media, I am not really surprised that this great painting attained such a high figure. Churchill paintings are much sought-after,” Murray said.

“Had it not been damaged, it would have fetched a much higher price and perhaps ended up in a private collection in Russia or China, never to be seen again.”

There’s no official word on who bought the painting or where it will ultimately end up, but Murray said he has his suspicions.

“I am pretty sure that it will go to Canada, although Sotheby’s are very discreet when it comes to letting out information about the buyer, even to the seller.”


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The painting was originally mislabelled as Lake Louise, Alta., but Calgary historian David Finch saw a photo of it and let it be known it was Emerald Lake.

“To be clear, I’m the obnoxious Canadian who challenged the location of the painting, came to be involved but I am not an expert at painting or Churchill history — an innocent bystander,” said Finch.

Finch said Churchill had been painting for years, a hobby he picked up to cope with depression. He said the trip to Canada and the U.S. gave him a chance to escape his troubles at home.

“He’d been run out of England with his tail between his legs. His government had fallen. He’d lost his own seat. He was desperate for an escape from all his trials and tribulations so he and his brother and his two sons came on a tour of North America,” said Finch.

Finch said he’s no art critic but Churchill painted a lot of paintings over the years and this likely isn’t his best work.

“I don’t think much of it but somebody obviously does to pay that kind of money for it,” said Finch.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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