Dundee: 1908. Photograph. This large, handsome, and striking vintage photograph taken on 4 May 1908 shows then-33-year-old Winston Churchill following his speech at Kinnaird Hall, Dundee, during the campaign that elected him Member of Parliament for Dundee just five days later. The composition is a dramatic Edwardian archetype; Churchill is front and center, on stage before a lectern amid a tiered crowd of hundreds of men (and just two women), all elaborately attired and comporting the stern confidence of pre-WWI Britain, nearly every face regarding the camera. One cannot help but imagine the time and trouble taken to set up the image. As if to underscore the point, a few of the faces are blurred, an artefact of the slower exposure speed of 1908 photography.
The elaborate frame features a gilt and black inner track, a swelling, rounded, brown walnut inner frame, and a dark, tiered outer frame, the net effect providing depth, dimension, and a fittingly venerable aesthetic. The photograph is protected behind U-V filtering acrylic, and accented by archival cream-colored matting. The frame measures 24.5 x 20.5 inches (62.23 x 52.07 cm), and the photograph by itself measures 13.97 x 9.44 inches (35.5 x 24 cm). The overall condition is very good plus. We acquired this image already long-framed thus. Photograph and frame both suffered some superficial scratches and scuffs when the original glazing shattered. We had the photograph and frame professionally re-matted, re-glazed, and sealed by a seasoned, museum-quality framer. While certainly not preferable, the superficial nicks and scuffs are relatively unobtrusive and hide well amid the myriad faces and venerable character of the image.
This image captures Churchill – and, ostensibly, the elite of his soon-to-be constituency – at the very beginning of his stormy, 15-year tenure as M.P. for the Scottish industrial constituency of Dundee. Lasting from 1908 to 1922, this was a tumultuous period including reform battles, the First World War, and the postwar recession.
In 1908, Churchill - still in his mid-thirties - was promoted to the Cabinet. Rules of the day required newly appointed Cabinet Ministers to seek re-election by their constituencies. Unfortunately for Winston, the by-election became a test of confidence in the Liberal government. Forced to defend the Government's policy of the past two years, targeted by vengeful Conservatives, and hounded on the hustings by Suffragettes, Churchill lost his seat on 24 April, just 10 days before this image was captured.
Literally within minutes of his defeat, Churchill received a telegram from Dundee Liberals inviting him to become their candidate. When he did accept the invitation - 72 hours later to the chagrin and consternation of local pride - Churchill wrote to his mother: "It is a life seat and cheap and easy beyond all experience". He was elected Member of Parliament for Dundee on 9 May – 5 days after this image was captured. As to Dundee being an “easy” seat, this was not to be the case.
At the time, Churchill was a young lion of the Liberal Party, vexing the British establishment and helping lay the foundations of the modern welfare state. In 1904, he had quit the Conservative Party and joined the Liberals, beginning a dynamic chapter in his political career that saw him champion progressive causes and be branded a traitor to his class - doubtless endearing him to the people of Dundee. Nonetheless, the gap between him and his constituents was acute. Dundee was a predominantly working class constituency - "a dark mass of dirty grey sandstone tenements, punctuated by high chimney stacks and church spires", heavily reliant on the volatile textile trade. In 1922, Churchill lost his seat in a 6-way contest, in which he placed 4th. Within two years Churchill returned both to Parliament and to the Conservative Party, which he would variously vex and lead for the next four decades of his long political life
Note that this large, framed item will be shipped at cost. Item #006316