Churchill’s “Visual Philosophy”: All the Curtis Hooper Prints

Churchill’s “Visual Philosophy”: All the Curtis Hooper Prints

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.

Hooper
“The pri­or­i­ty of any politician…is to pre­vent war.” The quote Sarah Churchill assigned to this draw­ing is not by her father, who did not hold that opin­ion con­sis­tent­ly. Yet in the Czech cri­sis of 1938, Russ­ian Ambas­sador Ivan Maisky wrote that WSC said “the most impor­tant thing is to pre­vent war. How? Churchill has such a plan….Britain, France and the USSR should deliv­er a col­lec­tive diplo­mat­ic note to Ger­many. [Only this] can save human­i­ty from fresh car­nage.”
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.

Hooper Background

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.

Hooper
This exam­ple with a large sig­na­ture is from anoth­er col­lec­tion. The accom­pa­ny­ing quo­ta­tion is by Sarah Churchill, not her father: “You can break our hearts, but nev­er our resolve.” These are lines she wrote one wartime week­end at Che­quers, the Prime Minister’s coun­try res­i­dence: “Arise, oh coun­try­men, arise, And with defi­ance face the dark­en­ing skies. Turn on the tyrant and say, The black night is yours but we will have the day. Dreams, hopes, faiths may yet dis­solve; You may break our hearts, but nev­er our resolve.”

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).

Varieties

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.

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