July 1, 2022
  • July 1, 2022
  • Home
  • Painter
  • Winston Churchill — Painter in Marrakech

Winston Churchill — Painter in Marrakech

By on June 4, 2022 0

By Cheryl Anderson

“It’s a wonderful place, and the hotel is one of the best I’ve ever used. I have an excellent bedroom and bathroom, with a large balcony twelve feet deep, overlooking a truly remarkable panorama over the tops of orange and olive trees, and over the houses and ramparts of native Marrakesh.

Winston Churchill

“Sand dunes near the pyramids near Cairo. painted around 1921.

“At the Pyramids”

View of Jerusalem, painted in 1921.

View of Cairo from the Pyramids, painted in 1921.

Pyramids in the distance near Cairo at sunset, painted in 1921

Churchill traveled in 1921 to attend a conference on ‘the dissolution of the end of the old Ottoman Empire after the First World War, a conference was held in Cairo to discuss the political future of the Middle East’ . Clémentine accompanied Winston on this official trip to the Middle East. They landed at Alexandria and visited Aboukir Bay and continued to Cairo. He rode a camel around the Sphinx “and made several sketches at Sakkara”. He then went to Jerusalem to paint, then to Tel Aviv. Churchill found time to capture images on canvas of distant pyramids, sand dunes, and views of Cairo and Jerusalem.

“A small painting of Marrakech.”

The Ourika Valley.

The quote at the beginning of this article is taken from the letter that Winston wrote to “My darling Clemmie”, on December 30, 1935 from the Mamounia hotel in Marrakech. Churchill’s year began with a failure to secure a government post in 1935, so he took a vacation at Chateau de L’Horizon. Clementine and Winston then embarked on a working and painting holiday to Mallorca via Barcelona. They returned to London, Churchill then departed for North Africa where he was able to escape in warmer weather. This is his first “painting vacation” in North Africa. His friend, Sir John Lavery, and others had recommended visiting the exotic location. Churchill wanted to explore the possibilities of painting. Tangier was his first stop, and from there he went to Marrakech. “He was clearly fascinated by Marrakesh (his preferred spelling) and its people and collected a large number of photographs on this and subsequent visits, which still remain in the archives of the Studio at Chartwell.” The photos were used for the accuracy of local clothing and city gardens for his paintings.

A cluster of palm trees directly matches a photograph in the Studio’s archives at Chartwell. It was a gift from Churchill “to the Hudson’s Bay Company, in recognition of his appointment in 1956 as the first ‘Grand Lord of the Adventure Company of England trading in Hudson’s Bay’ “.

Palm trees in Marrakech corresponds directly to a photograph from the archives of the Chartwell Studio.

“A small painting of palm trees” corresponds directly to a photograph from the Studio archives at Chartwell.

Painting of Marrakech offered to Prime Minister David. They had both stayed at the Mamounia Hotel in 1936.

Churchill delighted in showing Roosevelt the sun setting over the Atlas Mountains after the Casablanca conference in 1943, telling him:You can’t come all the way to North Africa without seeing Marrakech… I have to be with you when you see the sun set over the Atlas Mountains. They stayed at Villa Taylor, the home of the American vice-consul. Later that year, after the Cairo conference, Churchill took Roosevelt to see the Sphinx and the Pyramids. Winston was clearly drawn to these exotic sites and to adventure. Expressing his enthusiasm for Marrakesh, Churchill told Roosevelt, “It is the most beautiful place in the whole world…Marrakesh is quite simply the best place in the world to spend an afternoon.

“Sunset over the Atlas Mountains.” This spectacular scene appealed to Churchill so much that he insisted that President Roosevelt witness it after the Casablanca conference in 1943.

A scene near Marrakech. Churchill gave it to Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.

Entrance to the Todhra Gorge, east of Marrakech.

Near Marrakesh

In Marrakech

The Ourika Valley with the Atlas Mountains in the background

Churchill returned to Marrakech in 1947. Once again, he stayed at the Mamounia hotel. The hot climate, the variety of subjects, the city and the desert scenes all kept him coming back. “Within the city walls, Churchill was clearly fascinated by, for example, its gardens, the great mosque and the people dressed in colour.” He paints from the balcony of the hotel, and at the Ourika gorges. It was a winter trip to paint and work on his war memoirs. He went regularly to Marrakech and made six trips there between 1935 and 1959. Meryem Mikou specifies: “He went from balcony to balcony to watch for the light, as if to better capture the colors and reproduce them on his canvases”.

Marrakech scene.

Scene in front of one of the gates of Marrakech.

Marrakech which shows a garden within the walls, painted in 1947. The painting was given to his grandson Winston.

The Ourika Valley.


I I paint from the balcony, because although the hometown is full of attractive places, the crowds, the smells and the general discomfort for painting put me off. Winston to Clementine on December 30, 1935 from the Mamounia Hotel.

A village near Marrakech.

The Mosque of Marrakech.

.In 1950, Churchill discovered the delicious Tinerhir, in the Sahara Desert located on the other side of the Atlas Mountains from Marrakech. As is apparent from so many of his paintings, the Atlas Mountains were a special attraction. During the 1950 visit, the artist Jacques Marjorelle introduced him to tempera instead of oil, but although he was intrigued by the medium, there are no known examples of its use.

The Mosque of Marrakech.


Palm trees near Marrakech. Based on a photograph from the Studio Archives at Chartwell.

Group of palm trees near Marrakech. Based on a photograph from the Studio Archives at Chartwell.

Todhra Gorge near Tinerhir.

Todhra Gorge from photographs from Chartwell’s studio archives.

In the 1930s, trips to Morocco became popular for the privileged few, but not yet for the masses. Some consider these early European visitors pioneers because it was not an easy journey and it was expensive. Churchill can certainly be considered one of these pioneers. In his New Year’s letter to Clementine in 1935 he wrote about the details of the trip, “But don’t completely rule out the idea of ​​taking the boat to Marseille. Every week there are steamers of ten thousand tons which in forty hours bring you to Casablanca, from where three and a half hours by automobile bring you here. To study ! ”

“Churchill gave this view of Marrakech to President Harry S. Truman.”

View of the Atlas Mountains.

Ourika Valley from a photograph in the Studio archives at Chartwell.

Painting of Churchill in Marrakesh in the 1950s.

The French devoted the 1920s to building tourist infrastructure and promoting tourism in its colonies – at the time, Morocco was a French protectorate. The warmer climate was particularly appealing to those living in the cold, gray and damp UK. By 1933, 36,600 tourists had landed in Casablanca compared to only 4,000 a year at the end of the 1920s. Churchill was delighted to discover that there were excellent French newspapers, impressed by Morocco’s modernity and civilization, calling Marrakech from “Paris of the Sahara”. Writing to Clémentine that on December 30, 1935, “You would be amazed at what the French have done here…it is very pleasing to see what a vigorous civilized race can do to create order and progress in these ancient deserts.”

A door in Marrakesh is said to have been painted during Churchill’s last visits in the late 1950s.

Photograph from the archives of the Chartwell Studio. The image of an Arab on a donkey was used in the painting in front of one of the gates of Marrakech. It is believed to have been painted during Churchill’s last visits in the late 1950s.

Winston Churchill was drawn to the colors, the natural beauty of it all, the Atlas Mountains, the light and, of course, the pleasant climate. He described the mountains, with which he was fascinated, and the surrounding terrain, to Clementine in 1935, “It’s five hours from the crest of the Atlas and it is said that you are then looking at a huge region, first a large tropical valley, then another mountain range, and beyond that the whole Sahara desert. “

“The walls of Marrakesh. Painted in 1959 when Churchill last visited in his 85th year.

Photograph of the gardens of the Mamounia Hotel from the archives of the Chartwell Studio.

I will bring you back to the Côte d’Azur in my next article on Winston Churchill as a painter! However, I couldn’t help but share his love of Marrakech. What I didn’t know was that as early as 1921 he was fascinated by the desert scene, whether for lectures or painting vacations. His paint box and brushes were always part of his travel gear.

“The garden of the Mamounia hotel. This hotel is where Churchill invariably stayed from his first visits to Marrakech in the 1930s until his last in the 1950s.”

“Here, in these vast palm groves emerging from the desert, the traveler can be assured of eternal sunshine” and “contemplate with incessant satisfaction the majestic and snow-capped panorama of the Atlas Mountains”. Winston Churchill

See you soon

Quotes and pictures:

painting as a hobby, by the Right Honorable Sir Winston Churchill, published in 1965 by Cornerstone Library, New York.

Winston Churchill-Painting on the Côte d’Azur, by Paul Rafferty, published by Unicorn.

The life of Sir Winston Churchill through his paintings, by David Coombs with Minnie Churchill, published by Gardners Books, 2003.

Churchill on the French Riviera, by Nancy Smith, published by Biblio Publishing.

The Riviera Ensemble, by Mary S. Lovell, published by Pegasus Books Ltd. 2018.

defiant Churchill, by Barbara Leaming, published by Harper Perennial, 2010.