Exhibited at Hillsdale College
In the 1970s, Sarah Churchill was involved in the commercial publication of a series of twenty-eight intaglio drawings by Curtis Hooper entitled, “A Visual Philosophy of Sir Winston Churchill.” The drawings were based upon famous Churchill photographs and Sarah supplied suitable quotations for each.
Decades have passed since Sir Winston’s death, but Curtis Hooper’s dramatic graphite drawings are as lifelike as ever. “While many only know Churchill for his wartime leadership, the ‘Visual Philosophy’ series is unique in that it contains vignettes drawn from throughout his entire life,” said Churchill Fellow and Hillsdale senior Ross Hatley.For years we tried to learn how many were produced, but were never able to locate a complete collection. Every time we thought we had the final number, another turned up! The actual total is twenty-eight, but until now we’ve never seen a full set in one place.
In October and November 2018, the Hillsdale College proudly displayed not only the total collection of intaglio prints, but the original artwork for each. The exhibit was at Hillsdale’s Daughtery Gallery. It was part of a regular rotating schedule of art exhibits by students, faculty, and from the College’s collections. For the current schedule, click here.
I am often asked about these drawings by collectors wishing to know what they are worth. I am qualified neither to appraise art nor to testify to its genuinity, but I have talked to Mr. Hooper and offer what we know herewith.
Each picture was based on a famous photograph of Sir Winston. They range from childhood to old age. The publisher was Graphic House in New Jersey, and the scheme was quite successful.
Each print was assigned a particular Churchill quotation and signed by Sarah Churchill and Curtis Hooper (the latter in addition to his printed signature on the lithograph). Each was numbered, and presented with a debossed coat of arms and Churchill quotation. (One exception was the print at left, which was assigned a quotation written by Sarah.)
The published format was 22 1/2″ x 34 1/2″. Some sources say each print had an edition of 400, some prints indicate 300. But this was a maximum figure, and in fact the actual number produced was much lower (see below).
These prints exist (also signed in pencil by Sarah) in smaller format, about the size of a sheet of U.S. stationery. But they were not part of the original project and appear to be reproductions. Indeed the pencil signature may not actually be hers. Also, some of large format prints now offered could be reproductions.
According to Mr. Hooper, genuine large-format versions must carry both his signature and Sarah Churchill’s. As always with all fine art, one should buy from a reputable dealer who is able to supply provenance and assure authenticity.
Aside from the Hillsdale collection, few full sets of full-size prints exist, but the smaller versions seem to be very numerous. Since the latter are not originals, they carry no authenticity and no great value. The larger prints, properly authenticated, are worth much more.
There is a huge residual interest in the “Visual Philosophy” series today, over four decades on. Many of the finest Churchill collections exhibit them. I am very glad that Hillsdale has acquired this collection, which will inspire new generations of Churchillians.