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Winston Churchill’s Painting Gifted to Aristotle Onassis Coming up for Auction

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Winston Churchill's painting, The Moat, Breccles, gifted to Aristotle Onassis will be offered at Phillips New York.

Courtesy of Phillips

Winston Churchill’s 1921 painting, The Moat, Breccles, gifted to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1961 and hung in the saloon of the Onassis superyacht, the Christina, will be offered for sale at Phillips New York on June 23.

Offered from the Onassis Family Collection, the painting is expected to fetch between US$1.5 million and US$2 million at its debut auction.

The Moat, Breccles, depicts a river scene in Norfolk, England, where the cousin of Churchill’s wife, Clementine, lived, according to Jean-Paul Engelen, deputy chairman and worldwide co-head of 20th century and contemporary art at Phillips.

Winston Churchill And Aristotle Onassis on July 29, 1959

Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

“1921 was a year of extremes for Churchill,” Engelen says, after he became Secretary of State for the Colonies in February. “He really got back into politics, however, that was followed by the death of his mother and his daughter later that year.”

The painting was first mentioned in Churchill’s essay, Painting as a Pastime, first published in The Strand Magazine in December 1921. Churchill acknowledged in the essay that he sought escape in painting and writing from bouts of depression.

Churchill kept the painting to himself before he gifted it to Onassis in 1961. The two were introduced by Churchill’s son, Randolph, at a dinner in La Pausa, France, on Jan. 16, 1956, and a friendship developed. From 1958 to 1963, Churchill made eight cruises in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic on the Christina, the world’s first superyacht.

The Moat, Breccles, which Churchill treasured in his own private collection for 40 years, is a gift of warm affection and friendship,” Engelen says. “When he gave a present to the richest person in the world, obviously, he gave something dear to him and something he was proud of.”

The painting was hung in the saloon of the Onassis superyacht, the Christina.

Courtesy of Phillips

Onassis hung the painting in the saloon of the Christina, where he entertained many celebrities and fellow business titans including John Paul Getty, John D. Rockefeller, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, his future wife, who first met Churchill on the superyacht.

The painting was featured in the 1964 documentary The Other World of Winston Churchill, which was filmed on the Christina.

The painting has been held in the Onassis Family Collection since the Greek magnate died in 1975. The offering at Phillips’ 20th century and contemporary art evening auction on June 23 marks its first appearance at auction.Opening on June 15, leading up to the auction, Phillips will recreate Onassis’ iconic bar on the Christina, known as Ari’s Bar, in its New York headquarters at 432 Park Ave., with The Moat, Breccles taking center stage.



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