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Winston Churchill

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Winston Churchill

by Walter Stoneman
vintage print, 3pm 1 April 1941
10 7/8 in. x 8 1/4 in. (275 mm x 209 mm)
Given by Walter Stoneman, 1942
Photographs Collection
NPG x6140

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Walter Stoneman (1876-1958), Photographer. Artist or producer associated with 18527 portraits, Sitter in 8 portraits.

This portraitback to top

When Walter Stoneman photographed Winston Churchill he was the eighth Prime Minister he had photographed for the National Photographic Record (see article published in Illustrated, 19 April 1941). Another copy of this print was reputedly kept on Stalin's desk in the Kremlin. Sensing the historical significance of the sitting Stoneman recorded not just the date but the hour it was taken.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 239 Read entry

    From Omdurman and the Boer War to his state funeral in 1965, Winston Churchill's life is virtually synonymous with the major events in modern British history. The son of Lord Randolph Churchill, he naturally gravitated to politics, after brief but eventful episodes as a soldier and then as a journalist, and for the next fifty years was one of the dominant figures in the House of Commons. A vociferous and eloquent enemy of appeasement, he succeeded Chamberlain as Prime Minister in 1940, and became Britain's leader and inspiration in her 'darkest hour'.

    Walter Stoneman took up photography in the 1890s and was still working at his studio in Baker Street, London, at the time of his death. As chief photographer and eventually chairman of J. Russell & Sons Ltd, photographers to the Gallery's National Photographic Record, he photographed some 7,000 distinguished sitters on the Gallery's behalf. Stoneman styled himself 'the Man's Photographer', explaining that, 'Women do not make beautiful photographs. Men have more character in their faces', and was himself something of a character. His work for the Record - mainly head-and-shoulders portraits taken in the studio - rarely goes beyond the documentary, but this portrait of Churchill at three-quarter-length in the historic surroundings of the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street, shows Stoneman rising for once above the mediocre, his latent talent stirred by a man who was, to use Churchill's own phrase, 'walking with destiny'. This photograph was not commissioned as part of the National Photographic Record but presented to the Gallery by Stoneman. Sensing its historical significance, he recorded not just the date but the hour it was taken.

Events of 1941back to top

Current affairs

The Blitz continues with sustained Luftwaffe attacks on British cities. As the bombing went on the urban population got used to the black out, the air raid sirens and nights spent in shelter. The idea emerged (to some extent a myth) of the 'spirit of the Blitz' where people pulled together united, disregarding traditional class and social divisions.

Art and science

Frank Whittle demonstrates the first test-flight of a plane powered by jet propulsion. Although the German, Hans von Ohain, built the first jet plane, Whittle was the first to patent a design for the jet engine (in 1930), and his subsequent work helped to advance the technology and made Britain leaders in the field.


The Soviet Union and America join the Allies. The Soviet Union was forced to switch sides after Hitler attacked in June 1941, reneging the Soviet-Nazi pact. Six months later the US Navy was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbour. The following day the USA declared war on Japan, and three days later Germany and Italy declared war on America.

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