New York: E. F. Foley, 1932. Photograph. This is a scarce and compelling inter-war photograph portrait of Winston S. Churchill captured by E. F. Foley, signed by both the photographer and Churchill. The gelatin silver print image measures 7.75 x 5.625 inches (19.69 x 14.29 cm) on a 10 x 8 inch (25.4 x 20.32 cm) sheet. Foley signed just below the lower right corner of the image “E. F. Foley” in pencil. Churchill signed directly below Foley in ink “Winston S. Churchill 1932”. The only other notation is “25” in pencil on the verso. Condition is excellent, the print exceptionally clear and well-preserved with no appreciable flaws. The custom, archival conservation framing features 15 x 12.75 black and gold painted wood, the window double matted lending further depth to the photo, protected beneath Optimum Museum Acrylic. We have owned this print for nearly 30 years, before which it long resided in another noteworthy Churchill collection.
In 1929, Churchill lost both his ministerial salary and a fortune in the stock market crash. A lecture tour of the U.S. beginning in late 1931 – reprising his original lecture tour of more than three decades earlier – was meant “to regain some of the money he had lost…” On 13 December, just two days after he arrived in New York and after giving only the first of his scheduled forty lectures, Churchill was to have dinner with his friend Bernard Baruch on Fifth Avenue. Unfortunately, he did not recall the precise address. Characteristically impatient with the traffic, Churchill left his cab to search for the address on foot and met a common peril of the transatlantic traveler; he looked the wrong way to cross the street and was struck by a car.
Witnesses feared he had been killed. Churchill was a week in the hospital, two more in bed at his hotel, and then an additional three weeks convalescing in the Bahamas, resuming his lecture tour in New York on 28 January 1932. The recuperating Churchill “undertook a tour of forty lectures throughout the United States, living all day on my back in a railway compartment, and addressing in the evening large audiences.” He later recalled “For two months I was a wreck… On the whole I consider this was the hardest time I have had in my life.” (WSC, WWII Vol. I, p.78) Different but no less dire trials lay ahead. When this image was captured and signed, Churchill was at the beginning of his “wilderness years” – a decade he would spend out of power and out of favor, frequently at odds with both his party and prevailing public sentiment until the Second World War brought both a terrible vindication and the premiership.
This striking image was captured by Edward Frederick Foley (1866-1954) who gained fame for portraits and newspaper photos in the 1910s-1940s. Born in England, Foley emigrated to New York City, incorporating his photography studio there in 1903. By the end of his long career, he had photographed such famous personalities as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, General John J. Pershing, Benito Mussolini, and Marshal Petain. In 1932, the year Churchill signed this portrait, Foley also took an excellent portrait of Amelia Earhart.
This photograph was almost certainly taken at Foley’s Fifth Avenue New York studio. Given that Churchill’s injuries included a serious blow to his forehead (“Head scalp wound severe”) and no such injury is evident in the image, it was possibly taken just before Churchill’s accident (perhaps the same day he was fatefully on Fifth Avenue to visit Baruch) and then printed and signed in 1932 after his recovery and resumption of the lecture tour. More plausibly, the image was captured after Churchill returned to New York to resume his tour in late January 1932 and before he left New York on 11 March. Substantiating the notion of an early 1932 portrait, from the 1920s to the 1940s Foley often spent December to February photographing society at Palm Beach resorts. Moreover, by February 1932 press photos show Churchill’s face sufficiently recovered to be unbandaged and unmarked. Item #005917