Winston Churchill painting smashes estimate at Vivien Leigh sale

A painting by Winston Churchill that the British prime minister gifted to Gone with the Wind actress Vivien Leigh has sold for more than five times its estimate.

The 1951 still life realised £638,750 ($862,824) in the sale of Leigh’s personal collection at Sotheby’s last night.

Churchill Leigh painting

Churchill painted the still life in the early 1950s 

It was valued at £100,000 ($135,080), resulting in an increase of 538.7%.

Leigh and Churchill struck up an unlikely friendship in 1936, after meeting on the set of Fire Over England.

Churchill began painting in the early 1900s. He was modest about his work and rarely showed it to others. He only occasionally gave his paintings as gifts.

Flower paintings were only ever given to friends and family.   

Leigh would later say of the piece: "Whenever I feel particularly low or depressed I look at those three rosebuds.

“The thought and the friendship in the painting is such a great encouragement to me."

Frances Christie, Sotheby's head of modern & post-war British art, said: “Churchill’s gift of a still life of roses to Vivien speaks volumes about the respect and regard he felt for her.

“Theirs was not a passing acquaintance, but a friendship that endured for more than twenty years.

“He inspired her to begin painting and it is poignant to think that they shared a mutual solace in an activity where they found a refuge from all the trials and tribulations of daily life.”

Demand is growing for Churchill paintings. The record is £1.8m ($2.4m), set by The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell in 2014.

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