|Biography from Christie's London, South Kensington:|
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Edith Grace Wheatley was born in 1888 and studied at the Slade School and in Paris. She lived in London and Cornwall and exhibited her work as Edith Grace Wolfe before marrying John Laviers Wheatley in 1912, also a painter. Moving to South Africa, she held a position as Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Cape Town. She exhibited with the Royal Society of Miniature Painters in 1910. Edith Grace Wheatley died in 1970.
No stranger to painting works on a grand scale
having worked on large wall paintings during her time in Cape Town, her large oil painting titled The Statesman, commemorates Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, K.G., O.M., C.H.,
T.D., D.L., F.R.S., Hon. R.A. (1874-1965), soldier, journalist, author,
artist, politician and orator, widely regarded as one of the greatest
wartime leaders of the 20th Century and as the greatest Briton of all
time. The picture is dominated by a V for Victory picked out in yellow roses. Churchill is depicted here in the robes of The Order of Garter, the
oldest and most prestigious British chivalric order, which he received
from the Queen in 1953. Above the figure of Churchill are the figures of
Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II. Churchill was born during the
reign of the former and died during the reign of the latter, the only
man to have been elected as a Member of Parliament (we see Westminster
Abbey and The Houses of Parliament towards the bottom of the picture)
during the reign of both monarchs.
Around the edge of the painting are key scenes. From the top left,
reference is made to the aerial war; Britain suffered a sustained
campaign by the Luftwaffe during 1940-1 to bomb them into submission.
Though vastly outnumbered, the RAF fought valiantly against the odds and
in so doing thwarted German plans to invade, leading to Churchill's
famous oration: 'Never in the field of human conflict has so much been
owed by so many to so few'. Below this we see the Battle of the
Atlantic, referring to the Allies' ongoing struggle, lasting the
duration of the war, to protect supply lines from German attack. At the bottom of the picture is a sunny terrace overlooking the sea with
canvas and easel. Coming to painting later in life, Churchill quickly
found, in the challenge it presented him, a respite from the world of
politics. The artist Sir Oswald Birley commented that had Churchill
'given the time to art that he has given to politics, he would have been
by all odds the world's greatest painter'. Churchill was elected an
Honorary Royal Academician. At the bottom of the picture we see one of
Churchill's two toy poodles, both of whom were called Rufus.
In the bottom right corner is a representation of the Normandy Landing
of 1944, the Allied operation to invade Nazi occupied Europe. By both
air and sea, British, American and Canadian troops landed in Northern
France to begin the liberation and launch a second front to relieve the
pressure on the U.S.S.R. in the east.
In the top right quarter of the picture, we see the library at
Chartwell, Churchill's beloved home in Kent.
Above the library is a scene from the Sudan, probably from the Battle of
Omdurman. Churchill was there as an officer in the British army in 1898
during the Mahdi's revolt, where the British forces defeated a far
larger force of the Mahdi's followers. He wrote about his adventures in
The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Sudan. He
also wrote a four volume biography of his ancestor, John Churchill,
First Duke of Malborough, seen on the top right, the great soldier, who
from humble beginnings, by virtue of his abilities as a military
tactician, diplomat and driven by his voracious personal ambition
achieved great wealth and stature, a dukedom and raised Britain's status
to that of a major European military power.
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