London: Vivienne, 20th Century Studios Ltd., 1950. Photograph. This pair of vintage bromide studio prints are signed portraits of Winston and Clementine Churchill captured by Vivienne, not only a renowned photographer, but also their daughter’s mother-in-law. Winston’s portrait measures 6 x 4.25 inches (15.2 x 10.8 cm) on an 8.875 x 6.5 inches (22.5 x 16.5 cm) card stock mount signed “Winston S. Churchill | 1950”. Widely used during his second and final premiership (1951-1955), this portrait is often mistakenly dated to 1951 (even by the National Portrait Gallery). Clementine’s portrait measures 5.875 x 4.25 inches (14.9 x 10.8 cm) on an 8.875 x 6.5 inches (22.5 x 16.5 cm) card stock mount signed “Clementine S. Churchill”. Both mount versos feature the eight-line ink stamp of “VIVIENNE 20th Century Studios Ltd.”, including the Piccadilly address, telephone, and admonition that the photography may not be copied by “any other person or process whatsoever”.
Condition is better than very good, the prints distinct with no appreciable wear or fading, the mounts only lightly toned and soiled, the signatures thereon bold and clear. A compelling pair, these signed studio prints are well-suited to either individual matching frames or a side-by-side arrangement in a single frame. They are presently housed together in a crimson cloth folder, each protected beneath a removable, archival mylar sleeve.
Florence Vivienne Entwistle, nee Mellish (1889-1982) was a singer and a miniaturist before she began assisting her husband Ernest Entwistle, and son, Antony Beauchamp, with photography in 1934. When her son set up his own studio, she did the same, adopting the name “Vivienne”, photographing an array of public personalities, including five successive prime ministers. Vivienne’s relationship with the Churchills had a rocky start. On 18 October 1949, the Churchills’ daughter, Sarah, married Vivienne’s son, Antony. Winston and Clementine “learned of the marriage… from the newspapers” and were “greatly upset… particularly Clementine, who took it very hard indeed.” Nonetheless, on 19 December 1949 Winston and Clementine visited Antony’s mother, Vivienne, in her studio and on 20 December Clementine wrote to Sarah “We have made friends with Antony’s father and mother and we had an agreeable luncheon together.” (Gilbert, Vol. VIII, p.496)
Given that Winston’s portrait was used in a campaign publication for the February 1950 General Election (see Cohen A247.2) and this print’s “1950” date in Churchill’s own hand, it may have been captured when Churchill first visited Vivienne’s studio in December 1949. Certainly it was taken no later than early 1950. Vivienne was known for requiring her subjects to come to her studio. Indeed, Vivienne’s autobiography is titled They Came to My Studio (1956) and this very image of Winston graces the dust jacket. Vivienne recalls (p.16) that this iconic and often reproduced image was the last of their photo session, the product of Churchill agreeing to give her “only one more minute” after he had already risen to go.
Of the image of Clementine (p.28), Vivienne recalls “I was proud when Lady Churchill came to me, because she so rarely consents to go to a studio. I believe she came – as she does so many things – for her husband’s sake.” The relationship with the Churchills became familial. Vivienne “is possibly the only photographer to have had the privilege of photographing the entire Churchill family.” Vivienne obviously made exceptions to her in-studio rule for the Churchills. The National Portrait Gallery holds 214 of Vivienne’s portraits, including this one of Churchill (NPG x45168) and fourteen others of Winston, Clementine, and their grandchildren, the majority of which were taken at the Churchills’ country home, Chartwell. These portraits of Winston and Clementine, captured by the mother of the man who maritally absconded with their daughter, testify to the strength of the Churchills' intimate and effective partnership, which lasted fifty-seven years and produced five children. Item #006060