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A Signed Presentation Portrait of Churchill by Edward Steichen, dated 1949
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A Signed Presentation Portrait of Churchill by Edward Steichen, dated 1949

Measurements: Overall: 33.5cm (13.25in) x 26cm (10.25in)

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Signed and dated in ink to the mount in the Wartime Prime Minister’s hand 'Winston S. Churchill / 1949’. Image size 22 cm x 17 cm. Contained in a contemporary red morroco easel backed frame.

The present striking three quarter length portrait of Churchill was taken for Vanity Fair in New York in 1932, the work of the internationally renowned photographer Edward Steichen. Out of office between 1929 and 1939, Churchill concentrated on his writing to sustain him through his ‘Wilderness Years’, producing books and newpaper articles at a phoenominal rate and spending every penny of his substantial earnings. The U.S. was a lucrative market and in December 1931 he was in New York at the start of a 40-stop lecture tour when he was hit by a car, and, to use his own phrase, very nearly ‘squashed like a gooseberry’, while making his way to dine with the financier Bernard Baruch on the Upper East Side. Churchill was rushed to hospital where remained for two weeks and where he obtained a Prohibition-busting doctor’s note that allowed him his customary intake of champagne, and whiskies and sodas - ‘…the post-accident convalescence of the Hon. Winston S. Churchill necessitates the use of alcoholic spirits especially at meal times. The quantity is naturally indefinite but the minimum requirements would be 250 cubic centimeters.’

After a brief sojourn in the Bahamas, Churchill returned to New York in March 1932, was photographed By Steichen for Vanity Fair and embarked on a 14-stop version of his cancelled lecture tour. Eager to make up lost earnings, he turned the incident at 76th and Fifth into a money making exercise with an article for the Daily Mail entitled ‘My  New York Misadventure’. The Steichen portrait later served as the dust jacket photograph for ‘While England Slept’, the U.S. edition of Churchill’s 1938 book ‘Arms and the Covenant’, which highlighted the Britain's lack of military preparation in the face of Nazi Germany.

Edward Jean Steichen (1879-1973) was born in Luxembourg and grew up in Milwaukee. He developed parallel careers as a photographer, painter, and curator. His photos for the magazine Art et Décoration are regarded as the first modern fashion photographs ever published. During the First World War, he commanded the American Expeditionary Forces photographic unit. From 1923 to 1938 Steichen was a photographer for the Conde Nast, Vogue and Vanity Fair. During these years, he was regarded as the best known and highest paid photographer in the world. In 1944, he directed the war documentary ‘The Fighting Lady’, which won the 1945 Academy Award for Best Documentary. From 1947 to 1961, Steichen served as Director of the Department of Photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

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