Recently, I visited Blenheim Palace at the invitation of the Duke of Marlborough, to deliver a specially made bronze Sir Winston Churchill bust.
I unveiled my bust of Churchill at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, where we won 5 stars for our exhibition stand. The Duke of Marlborough was among the visitors who dropped by to see us. He was already familiar with my work, as he displayed my Andalusian Stallion in the grounds of Blenheim Palace for the summer last year. (The Andalusian Stallion sculpture is one of the Goodman’s Fields Horses which won the PMSA Marsh Award in 2015.) His Grace is a staunch supporter of the Arts and the Blenheim Art Foundation has held four exhibitions of international contemporary artists, including Ai Weiwei, in the historic setting of the Palace since its inception in 2014.
The Duke liked the Churchill sculpture very much and decided to buy one for the Palace. We also had buyers from Qatar, Adelaide, and Shropshire and I like to think of it in collections all over the world. However, knowing that my bust of Churchill was going to be on display at his actual birthplace was even more exciting, and not a little humbling to boot. When the sculpture came out of the foundry, I gave it a custom patina, a more traditional bronze finish to complement the style of Blenheim Palace.
Sir Winston Churchill is the subject of many famous sculptures. Jacob Epstein’s 1947 Winston Churchill bust sits in the Oval Office of the White House. Ivor Roberts-Jones’ 1973 Winston Churchill statue stands in Parliament Square.
I wanted to bring something different to my study of the great man. It was a challenge as I hadn’t done a portrait for twenty years. I studied hundreds of photographs of Churchill, watched footage of him speaking, and researched extensively at Blenheim Palace. One of the most inspirational images appears on the new £5 note, from a 1941 photograph by Yousuf Karsh. Thinking about all the monumental decisions Churchill had made during the war, I knew I had to communicate more than just his likeness. His instantly recognisable features and his indomitable spirit had to be captured. I approached it in the same way as I approach animals subjects, trying to convey his thoughts through his expression. I sculpted Churchill in reflective mood. He is bearing the heavy responsibility for leading his country during difficult times. However, I hope I have also revealed the kindness of the man beneath.
Bringing the bronze bust in through the front door of Blenheim Palace felt a little like bringing him home. The Duke and I arranged Churchill on a table facing the main entrance so he that greeted visitors on arrival. Now the sculpture is in the permanent Winston Churchill exhibition at the Palace.
A Palace spokesperson said:
“Hamish’s bust of Sir Winston Churchill is in the Palace for our many visitors to see. It will have a prime position in the permanent Churchill exhibition.”
His Grace was so pleased that he asked me to cast a scaled down edition of the Winston Churchill bust to go into the shop at Blenheim. They will be available very soon!