Ex-British PM Winston Churchill’s mosque painting auctioned for record $11.5 million

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Former British prime minister Winston Churchill’s rare painting work, Tower of Koutoubia Mosque, has become the most expensive painting by former second World War leader as it fetched $11.59 at an auction held by Christie’s in London on Monday.

Sir Churchill had gifted the painting to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II and eventually made its way into actor Angelina Jolie, who now put it on auction.

The painting is the only work that Churchill created during the Second World War, executing the painting in Marrakech following the Casablanca Conference in January 1943.

Churchill invited Franklin D. Roosevelt to join him in Marrakech the day after the conference concluded, motivated by his desire to share the views of the city and the light at sunset, which he so revered, with Roosevelt.

The view impressed Roosevelt so much that Churchill decided to capture the scene for him as a memento of their excursion.

Nick Orchard, Head of Department, Modern British Art, Christie’s said that Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque was created following the Casablanca Conference where it was agreed by the Allied forces that only complete surrender by the Axis powers would be acceptable. It is the only work that Churchill painted during the war, perhaps encouraged by the recent progress made by the Allies in what he considered to be one of the most beautiful countries he had encountered.

Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque is therefore arguably the best painting by Winston Churchill due to the significance of the subject matter to him, and the fact that it highlights the importance of the friendship between the two leaders. The gifting of the work to Roosevelt underlines the fact that Churchill held the American President in such high regard and points to their joint efforts in guiding the Allied powers to the outcome of the Second World War.”

Sir Winston Churchill began painting scenes of Morocco after being encouraged to visit the country by his painting tutor, Sir John Lavery. Upon his first visit in 1935, he felt that the light and scenery were unrivalled, creating some 45 paintings of the country. Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque stands out as the only painting created between 1939 and 1945, and the work is expected to realise one of the top prices for Sir Winston Churchill’s paintings at auction, said a statement issued by Christie’s.

The sale more than tripled its high estimate of $3.5 million. Churchill’s previous record was $2.7 million in 2014 at Sotheby’s London.

CNN citing a source said that actor Brad Pitt bought Churchill’s sunset scene as a gift to Jolie in 2011. The couple separated in 2016 after two years of marriage.