New York: Whittlesey House McGraw-Hill Book Company Inc., 1950. First edition, only printing. Full leather. This is a finely-bound and inscribed presentation copy of the U.S. first edition, first printing of Painting as a Pastime. Winston Churchill inscribed and dated this copy of his essay about his famous hobby in black ink in five lines on the front free endpaper recto: "For | Evan M. Frankel | from | Winston S. Churchill | 1952".
Edition and condition
The content of Painting as a Pastime had been printed in The Strand Magazine as early as 1921, but it was not until 1948 - nearly three decades after his first published words on the subject - that Churchill consented to a book about his pastime and passion. This U.S. first edition followed its British counterpart two years later, in 1950. The contents of the British and U.S. editions are virtually the same; the sheets for the U.S. edition were supplied by the British printers. Only the title page recto and verso differ.
The laid paper and full-color illustrated plates of this first edition lend themselves well to fine binding. In this case, the contents are particularly well-suited, clean and bright with no spotting. The binding is a handsome and skillfully executed dark green Morocco goatskin, the spine featuring raised and gilt-decorated spine bands, the covers featuring gilt-decorated borders and beveled edges, The contents are bound with gilt top edge and marbled endpapers framed by gilt-decorated turn-ins. The volume is housed in a dark green rigid cloth slipcase. Condition of both the binding and slipcase are pristine, as-new.
Evan M. Frankel (1902-1991) was, in many ways, an archetypal American rags-to-riches story, as well as “a charismatic personality” who counted among his friends Lucille Ball, Margaret Truman, and Winston Churchill’s daughter, Sarah (1914-1982). It seems plausible that this inscribed copy came to Frankel via his friendship with Sarah.
Born in a hamlet in the Carpathian Mountains near Crackow, Poland, Frankel was raised in an orthodox Jewish family that emigrated to the United States, arriving at Ellis Island in the winter of 1905 when Evan was two and a half years old. Raised in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Frankel was one of ten children and helped support his family “by selling shoelaces and chewing gum in the subway and on ferryboats.” Eventually Frankel enrolled at Columbia College intending to become an architect, but quit to become a partner in Ross-Frankel, a designer and builder of stores and offices. He became an owner and builder of Manhattan properties and “assembled the Avenue of the Americas blockfront”. There was irony in this, given that the latter half of Frankel’s life would be devoted to arresting development.
“Frankel first saw East Hampton when he surveyed it for construction of radar stations in World War II.” Soon he had converted a carriage house and 15 acres into an estate, and inextricably anchored himself to East Hampton and the South Fork of eastern Long Island. His home became a showcase for his architectural flair and was frequently featured for layouts in design and architectural publications. Frankel also crusaded to protect his beloved East Hampton “from the wave of new construction that swept Long Island in the post-war years.” Not confining himself to mere opposition to development, he worked to rehabilitate existing structures to avoid their replacement, and sold land or buildings “only to buyers who agreed to build and plant traditionally or to dedicate open space” to land banks. Among Frankel’s final projects was one combining both his experience in development and his cultural heritage – commissioning architect Norman Jaffe and raising funds to build the Gates of the Grove sanctuary, acclaimed as among the most beautiful temples in America.
(Sources: Appel, The Squire of East Hampton: The Life of Evan M. Frankel and Fowler, New York Times obituary of Evan M. Frankel, 19 April 1991)
Painting and writing
Soldier, writer, and politician, Churchill was perhaps an unlikely painter. Nonetheless he proved both a prolific and passionate one. Churchill first took up painting during the First World War. May 1915 saw Churchill scapegoated for failure in the Dardanelles and slaughter at Gallipoli and forced from his Cabinet position at the Admiralty. By November 1915 Churchill was serving at the Front, leading a battalion in the trenches. But during the summer of 1915, as he battled depression, he rented Hoe Farm in Surrey, which he frequented with his wife and three children. One day in June, Churchill noticed his brother's wife, Gwendeline, sketching in watercolors. Churchill borrowed her brush and swiftly found solace in painting, which would be a passion and source of release and renewal for the remaining half century of his long life.
Winston's wife Clementine had opposed the idea of her husband's opining in print on the subject, concerned that he might be belittled by professional painters and others. Clementine aside, it may be that behind Churchill's comparative reticence on the subject was a desire to keep something personal in the great and turbulent sweep of his otherwise tremendously public life. He wrote, "Painting is a friend who makes no undue demands, excites to no exhausting pursuits, keeps faithful pace even with feeble steps, and holds her canvas as a screen between us and the envious eyes of Time or the surly advance of Decrepitude" (Painting as a Pastime, p. 13).
Whatever Churchill's reason for penning and ultimately consenting to book publication of Painting as a Pastime complete with images of his paintings, the relatively few words he offered on the subject add something truly personal and different to the great body of his writing.
Reference: Cohen A242.3, Woods/ICS A125(b), Langworth p.290. Item #006581