Ernest Wallcousins was a renowned and successful painter and illustrator famed for his portraits of Sir Henry Wood, the conductor of the Proms for over 50 years, and for that of Sir Winston Churchill. Wallcousins worked across a wide range of medium and subjects; a book illustrator in the early years of the 20th Century, he designed posters in the 1920’s, including one for the London Underground in 1925 and was renowned for his illustrations of Royal occasions.
Wallcousins designed the Royal Souvenir Programme for the ill-fated Coronation of Edward VII in 1935. In 1945 Wallcousins painted this magnificent portrait, from life, of the wartime Prime Minster Sir Winston Churchill celebrating the Allied victories in World War II.
This important and impressive portrait, which was commissioned by Odhams Press for the “Victory Book” published in 1946, depicts Churchill standing stoically with a characteristic determined expression, his mood pensive, while engaging directly with the viewer, perhaps contemplating not only the recent, turbulent past but the possible future of Britain, and indeed the world.
Churchill is placed before a book-lined wall which may represent the Cabinet Room with the books possibly symbolising both his love of literature and his authorship, indeed Churchill is the only British Prime Minister in history to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. His hand rests on a Mercator’s map of the world symbolising Churchill’s vital role as one of the greatest war time leaders of the 20th Century in both his leadership and strategic planning of the Allies victory.
The symbolism within the portrait continues in the depiction of a small sculpture of “St. George Slaying the Dragon” which is believed to have been added to the composition by the artist at a later stage. There are several theories as to the meaning of its inclusion; it may represent the Allied Victory of good over evil, or as St. George is the patron saint of Moscow it may be emblematic of the alliance between Britain and Russian during the war. It has also been suggested that it may have been added as a celebration of the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and finally, Churchill’s aristocratic ancestor, John Churchill the 1st Duke of Marlborough, was awarded with the insignia of the ‘Great George’ by Queen Anne in recognition of his victory at the Battle of Blenheim, and which Sir Winston wore to the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.
His works can be found in museums in: London, Science Museum and Southend, Museum and Art Gallery.