London: Central Press Photos Ltd., 1 December 1963. Photograph. This original press photo of Winston S. Churchill was taken on his 89th birthday. Churchill is standing in a window of his Hyde Park Gate home and wearing a trademark "siren suit". This image measures 10.25 x 9 in (26 x 22.8 cm) on matte photo paper. Condition is very good. The paper is crisp with only light wear to the edges, a creased lower left corner, a crease extending 1.5 inches from the top edge, original crop markings, and light scuffing visible only under raking light. This image features original, hand-applied retouching of Churchill’s face as well as airbrushing applied to the background to enhance contrast for publication. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “Central Press Photos Ltd”, a purple publication stamp of the Sunday Telegraph from 1 December 1963, a typed caption, a clipping of the caption as it was printed in the newspaper, and handwritten printing notations.
Martin Gilbert notes that two days before this birthday Churchill visited the House of Commons, entering in a wheel-chair. The Yorkshire Post reported that “He was greeted with a warm cheer, and [Prime Minister] Sir Alec Douglas-Home gave up his own Front Bench seat to welcome him, sitting by his side for a brief chat.” (Vol. VIII, p. 1350)
This press photo once belonged to the Sunday Telegraph’s working archive. During the first half of the twentieth century, photojournalism grew as a practice, fundamentally changing the way the public interacted with current events. Newspapers assembled expansive archives, including physical copies of all photographs published or deemed useful for potential future use, their versos typically marked with ink stamps and notes providing provenance and captions. Photo departments would often take brush, paint, pencil, and marker to the surface of photographs themselves to edit them before publication. Today these photographs exist as repositories of historical memory, technological artifacts, and often striking pieces of vernacular art.
This original press photograph was taken in the twilight of Churchill’s remarkable life and career. Winston S. Churchill was 80 years old when he resigned his second and final premiership on 5 April 1955. During the last decade of his long life, Churchill passed "into a living national memorial" of the time he had lived and the Nation, Empire, and free world he had served. The day after Churchill died, on 25 January 1965, the Queen sent a message to Parliament announcing: "Confident in the support of Parliament for the due acknowledgement of our debt of gratitude and in thanksgiving for the life and example of a national hero" and concluded "I have directed that Sir Winston's body shall lie in State in Westminster Hall and that thereafter the funeral service shall be held in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul.” Churchill's state funeral was attended by the Queen herself, other members of the royal family, the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and representatives of 112 countries. It was the first time in a century that a British monarch attended a commoner’s funeral. Item #005367