Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France: 1957. TLS. This typed, signed letter to Churchill’s friend and paint supplier Willy Sax (1898-1964) reflects both Churchill’s passion for painting and his general inclination to preserve his passion as something personal in the great and turbulent sweep of his otherwise tremendously public life. The letter is accompanied by its original, franked envelope. The entirety of the typed letter’s message reads: “My Dear Willy Sax, | Thank you for your letter of January | 31. I was certainly not offended by your | suggestion, but I think that you are right to | decide not to publish for the present. | With all good wishes, | Yours very sincerely, ". The letter is signed by Churchill and hand dated “20” preceding the typed “February, 1957.”
The letter is typed on Churchill’s Hyde Park Gate stationery, but with the address crossed out and “at La Pausa, Roquebrune-Cap Martin” typed above. La Pausa was a French Riviera villa owned by Churchill’s longtime literary agent and friend Emery Reves, originally built for Coco Chanel and acquired by Reves in 1953 with proceeds earned from foreign language rights of Churchill’s The Second World War. Churchill was a frequent La Pausa guest, where he would, of course, paint. The letter seems almost certain to refer to a book by Sax which, consonant with Churchill’s apparent preference, it seems Sax decided not to publish during his lifetime. Sax’s book was posthumously published as Paints for Churchill's Canvas.
From Sax Churchill acquired his paints and counsel about their properties and application. Churchill occasionally painted with Sax and maintained a correspondence with him that charmingly revealed Churchill’s unguarded curiosity about his art. Color entranced Churchill. "I cannot pretend to feel impartial about the colours. I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns. When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting… a whole range of wonderful new colours which… delight the celestial eye.” (Painting as a Pastime, pp.24-25)
It was Willy Sax who supplied these colors to Churchill after the Second World War and to whom Churchill turned for technical questions about how to bring his colors vibrantly to life on canvas. Churchill’s recorded correspondence with Sax begins in 1946. In 1951, after a visit with the painter Marjorelle in Morocco, Churchill wrote to Sax with typical questions and supply requests, revealing again the cardinal allure color held for Churchill: “M. Marjorelle also showed me a sky of wonderful blue, the intensity of which I had never before seen… he takes natural cobalt powder… and blows the powder on with a little bulb spray. The result is to leave a number of fresh particles of great brilliance on the surface and really the colour was wonderful to one’s eyes. Do you know anything about this?”
Churchill once wrote: "Painting is a friend who makes no undue demands, excites to no exhausting pursuits, keeps faithful pace even with feeble steps, and holds her canvas as a screen between us and the envious eyes of Time or the surly advance of Decrepitude". (Painting as a Pastime, p.13) Churchill’s lengthy association and correspondence with Sax is a rare window into his perspective distinct from his life as statesman and leader. It was both understandable that Sax wished to share this perspective, and that Churchill wished to preserve it for himself.
The letter is in fine condition, unsoiled with no tears, notable toning, or discernible wear, with vertical and horizontal creases consistent with its original folding for an envelope, and with a single hole punch in the upper left corner. The original envelope is complete, apart from a flap detached when it was originally received by Sax and a small tape stain along the upper flap and upper front face of the envelope where someone clearly long-ago re-attached the envelope flap after opening. Item #003769