Painting as a Pastime
London: Odhams Press Limited, Ernest Benn Limited, 1948. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the 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 pastime and passion.
While the first edition was an attractive enough little book, the coarse, pale green cloth binding proved highly susceptible to soiling and sunning and the thin maroon and white dust jacket incredibly vulnerable to wear. This copy approaches near fine, not perfect, but an uncommonly bright copy nonetheless. The binding is square and tight with bright gilt on both front cover and spine. We note only trivial softening to the spine ends and lower corners. The contents are bright and clean. The only previous ownership mark is intriguing. Publication is recorded as being December 1948 (See Cohen A242.1.a). Nonetheless, a previous owner name and date of "Christmas 1947." is inked on the front free endpaper recto. Mild spotting is primarily confined to the page edges. The dust jacket is bright for the edition, with deep, substantially unfaded maroon hue on both the front face and spine and a bright white rear face. The jacket is also unclipped, retaining the original publisher's price on the lower front flap. Wear is modest, substantially confined to extremities, joints, and flap folds, with a short closed tear to the lower edge of the front face. Fractional loss is confined to the spine ends and flap fold extremities. The dust jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
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 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, "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 A242.1.a, Woods/ICS A125(a), Langworth p.288. Item #007463