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Hollywood, history comes together in Churchill art auction

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Angelina Jolie of Hollywood and iconic British wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, an avid artist who drew inspiration from the Moroccan city of Marrakech, meet for a March 1 date at the auction house Christie’s in London.

“The Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque”, an oil painting produced by Churchill during a visit to World War II, is expected to fetch between $ 1.5 and $ 2.5 million ($ 2 to $ 3.5 million dollars), according to an estimate by Christie’s.

Auctioned by Angelina Jolie, it is touted in Christie’s catalog as “Churchill’s most important work.” Apart from its distinguished provenance, it is the only landscape that he created ”during the war.

A career officer before entering politics, Churchill began painting relatively late at the age of 40.

His passion for the translucent light of Marrakech, far from political storms and the dull London skies, dates back to the 1930s when most of Morocco was a French protectorate, and he then made six visits to the North African country. during the course. 23 years old.

“Here, in these vast palm groves emerging from the desert, the traveler can be sure of an eternal sun … and can contemplate with relentless satisfaction the majestic and snow-covered panorama of the Atlas mountains”, he wrote in 1936 in the British newspaper Daily Mail.

He set up his easel on the balconies of the grandiose La Mamounia hotel or the city’s Villa Taylor, adored by the European jet set of the 1970s.

It is from the villa, after a historic conference in January 1943 in Casablanca with US President Franklin Roosevelt and French Charles de Gaulle, that he painted what has become his finest work, from the minaret behind the ramparts of the old city, with mountains behind and tiny colorful figures in front.

“You can’t go all this way in North Africa without seeing Marrakech,” he reportedly told Roosevelt. “I must be with you when you see the sun go down over the Atlas Mountains.”

A newspaper photograph taken at the time shows the two wartime Allied leaders admiring the sunset.

– ‘Really remarkable panorama’ –

After the departure of the American delegation, Churchill stayed an extra day and painted the view of the Koutoubia Mosque framed by the mountains.

He sent it to Roosevelt for his birthday.

“This is Churchill’s diplomacy in its most personal and intense form,” said Nick Orchard, head of British and Irish modern art at Christie. “It’s no ordinary gift between leaders. It’s soft power, and that’s what the special relationship is.”

Sold by the Roosevelt family in the 1950s, it changed hands several times before moving on to Hollywood dream couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in 2011, long before their high-profile split.

A second landscape by Churchill, “Scene in Marrakech”, painted on his first visit to Morocco in 1935, also went under the hammer at Christie’s Monday.

This was painted during a stay at La Mamounia, where he marveled at the “truly remarkable panorama over the tops of orange trees and olive trees”, in a letter to his wife Clémentine.

The hotel now has a suite and a bar named after its illustrious guest.

ko / sof / hc / kir

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