Thursday, April 12, 2007

Winston Churchill, guerrilla painter


Winston Churchill, even before World War II, seems to have understood the difference between the right & left side of the brain. In his essay "Painting as a Pastime," (which has been published as a book, he says that one can relieve mental strain by taking up a discipline that uses entirely different "mental muscles" from the one that are overused. There's an amusing description of his first time out:

"So very gingerly I mixed a little blue paint on the palette with a very small brush, and then with infinite precaution made a mark about as big as a bean upon the affronted snow-white shield. At that moment the loud approaching sound of a motor-car was heard in the drive. From this chariot there stepped swiftly and lightly none other than the gifted wife of Sir John Lavery. 'Painting! But what are you hesitating about? Let me have a brush - the big one.' Splash into the turpentine, wallop into the blue and the white, frantic flourish on the palette - clean no longer - and then several large, fierce strokes and slashes of blue on the absolutely cowering canvas. Anyone could see that it could not hit back... I have never felt any awe of a canvas since."

He chanced upon some painters on the coast of France who were disciples of Cezanne, who painted the luminous sea with multiple separate spots of pure color. To them, the subject matter was the light itself. Later, he saw a painting by Cezanne of a blank wall of a house, and it made him look anew on everyday scenes in his life. A refreshing pastime, indeed. "You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb."