London: The Associated Press, 1941. Photograph. This is a truly striking original Second World War press photograph of Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill’s wife, Clementine, inspecting the Home Guard of the Port of London on 22 July 1941. Press photographs can often be repositories of historical memory, interesting technological artifacts, and even worthy pieces of vernacular art. However, seldom is the composition of a press photograph as artistically exceptional as is the case here.
The row of assembled soldiers, angled and receding in both distance and focus into the background, is at high resolution in the foreground. The helmet of the lead soldier, angled slightly over his brow, shades his eyes, the effect rendering him more a representation than an individual, while the words “HOME GUARD” are clearly visible on his right shoulder. Clementine Churchill, equally crisp in the foreground, is impeccably dressed and with equally and apposite formal bearing to the soldier she regards. She is oriented toward the camera but with her head turned right, regarding the soldier with her own brow shaded by her hat and her own eyes hooded. The effect is one of intriguing and contrasting reciprocity, Clementine in her uniform, the soldier in his, Clementine in her required posture of attention, the soldier in his, Clementine’s countenance set by the requirements of her bearing and accoutrements, the soldier’s countenance similarly set by his own required bearing and accoutrements. Each is performing their role, those roles sharp in the foreground but the receding background simultaneously showing the whole of which the soldier and Clementine are parts. In short, a magnificent wartime image.
The gelatin silver print on heavy glossy photo paper measures 8.75 x 5.5 inches (22.23 x 13.97 cm). Condition is very good with a clean, crisp appearance not substantially impacted by trivial scuffs and light creasing visible only under raking light. The verso of the photograph features the copyright ink stamp of The Associated Press below an ink-stamped “Note to Editors” dated “JUL 29 1941”. An additional ink stamp is sated “SEP 5 1941”. An original printed caption affixed to the verso partially obscuring The Associated Press copyright ink stamp reads, in six lines, “Mrs. Winston Churchill INSPECTS THE HOME GUARD OF THE PORT OF LONDON JULY 22 AFTER PRESENTING GALLANTRY CERTIFICATES TO THE MEMBERS OF THEN (sic) PORT AUTHORITY. THE HOME GUARDS FORMED A GUARD OF HONOR FOR THE PRIME MINISTER’S WIFE.”
The photograph is archivally framed in black, beveled-edge walnut measuring 14.625 x 11.5 inches (37.15 x 29.21 cm), set beneath a 2.25 inch (5.72 cm) margin of white mat and glazed with UV-filtering acrylic. The frame’s verso is matted and mylar-glazed to expose the original press markings on the verso of the photograph.
Clementine Churchill, nee Clementine Hozier, first met Winston at a ball in 1904, where he made a poor impression. In March 1908 she was placed next to Winston at a dinner party, where he apparently made a better impression; they married on 12 September 1908. Their marriage brought five children: Diana (b. 1909); Randolph (b. 1911); Sarah (b. 1914); Marigold (b. 1918); and Mary (b. 1922). To their lifelong marriage Clementine brought "a shrewd political intelligence. She supplied balance to Churchill at two levels: her more equable nature ensured that she moderated the depth of his depressions, and her good judgment helped to ward off political mistakes." (ODNB) Winston Churchill's life and career were tumultuous and relentlessly eventful, so Clementine's married life was perhaps inherently not without stress, challenges, and sadness. Nonetheless, their marriage appears to have been a truly effective and intimate partnership. ‘Marriage was her vocation’, said a newspaper leading article at her death. (The Times, 13 Dec 1977). Item #006134