If you go down to the woods today, there’s a good chance that you might pass our over life-sized bronze statue of Sir Winston and Clementine Churchill on your way. Obscured from view until you are almost upon it, the statue is a real hidden gem that only the true explorers of Chartwell often manage to find. Making the trek down to the far corner of the gardens, behind the larger of the two lakes is well worth doing though as it makes for a great photo opportunity. In fact, you may even take such a great picture of the statue that you want to submit it to the Chartwell Calendar Photography competition that we lauched recently. More information on this project can be found by clicking here.
There are some interesting stories linked to our statue and the whole history behind the collaborations that created it, as I’ll try and reveal here. Produced by the great sculpturer Oscar Nemon, our statue was unveiled by HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who was President of The National Trust at the time in 1990. There was already a cast done of the Churchills on display in Kansas City but Nemon himself wanted to see one in Britain. The funding for the Chartwell statue was raised by the Churchill Statue Trust to mark the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s appointment as Prime Minister back in 1940, and the 25th anniversary of his death.
Churchill and Nemon first met at the La Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech early in 1951. Lady Churchill later asked Nemon if she could keep the terracotta bust he made of her husband in Nemon’s hotel room at La Mamounia because, in her words, “it represents to me my husband as I see him and as I think of him.” This began a creative collaboration between the two great men which would make Nemon Churchill’s first choice of sculptor when HM Elizabeth II commissioned a bust of Sir Winston for Windsor Castle in 1952.
There are many other notable collaborations bewteen Churchill and Nemon. Another seated bronze cast of Sir Winston can be found on the green in nearby Westerham for example. Perhaps more significantly, Oscar Nemon’s 1970 upright bronze of Sir Winston Churchill stands in the Members’ Lobby of the House of Commons where MPs often rub his foot for good luck! Incidentally, we have a maquette of this statue from the House of Commons here at Chartwell. You can find it on the landing outside Lady Churchill’s bedroom, although we do ask that don’t rub his little foot when you walk past please!
The working relationship between them grew so strong that there are now also other statues and sculptures of Churchill by Nemon in the likes of Bletchley Park, Churchill College Cambridge, the Cabinet War Rooms, The Guildhall, St. Margaret’s Bay, Dover, in Brussels, Copenhagen, Luxemborg, Monte Carlo, Moscow, Paris, Zagreb, Israel, Quebec, Toronto, Edmonton, Fredericton, Halifax, Hyde Park, New York State, Canberra and Mexico City! Phew! That Nemon fellow certainly kept himself busy!
Perhaps one of the most interesting connections between them came however when Sir Winston, an accomplished painter in his own right of course, created his first and only sculpture of his own and chose Nemon as the subject. Created in 1954, the original plaster cast can be seen here at Chartwell in the Studio behind Chuchill’s easel. The next time you visit us at Chartwell, as well as checking out the large statue by the lake, have a look at the Nemon bust in the Studio and see for yourself how good a job you think our Winston made of it!