New York: Whittlesey House McGraw-Hill Book Company Inc., 1950. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is the U.S. first edition, first printing of Painting as a Pastime, Churchill's essay about his famous hobby. It 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 hobby and passion.
This copy is very good in a good plus dust jacket. The dark turquoise binding is clean, square, and tight with sharp corners and bright spine gilt, with a touch of sunning at the spine ends and at the bottom edge of the front cover. The contents are marred only by spotting, which is appreciable only to the endpapers and prelims. The sole previous ownership mark is a brief, contemporary gift inscription on the front free endpaper recto dated “Christmas 1950”. The dust jacket retains bright, unfaded hues and is unclipped, the original “$2.50” upper front flap price intact. There is modest wear to extremities, light soiling to the rear face and flap folds, and negligible loss to the spine ends and flap fold corners. The dust jacket is protected with a clear, removable, archival cover.
Soldier, writer, and politician, Churchill was perhaps an unlikely painter. Nonetheless he proved both a prolific and a 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 Churchill's comparative reticence on the subject was to keep something personal in the great and turbulent sweep of his otherwise tremendously public life. He wrote in this volume, "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". 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 #006787