The only portrait Winston Churchill formally sat for during the Second World War has gone on public display for the first time.
The Freedom Portrait, by Frank Owen Salisbury, has joined an existing exhibition at the Churchill War Rooms in London thanks to a short loan from its owner.
Painted in 1944, towards the end of the Second World War, it sits as the final piece in the Wartime London: Art of the Blitz exhibition in the War Rooms, which are owned and operated by the Imperial War Museum (IWM).
The portrait was commissioned to mark Churchill’s acceptance of the Freedom of the City of London in November 1944. Although initially reluctant to sit for the portrait, given the pressures of the war, Churchill eventually agreed and gave Salisbury half an hour of his time at the artist’s home.
Salisbury, a fiercely conservative and traditionalist portrait artist, painted Churchill on a number of occasions, as well as then-American president Franklin D Roosevelt.
An oil study painted in preparation for a larger commemorative work, The Freedom Portrait was later described by Churchill as ‘bearing a remarkable likeness’.
It shows the Prime Minister in good spirits, but with a firm expression, perhaps reflecting the pressures on him as the war entered its final year.
The study is on display in the Historic Map Room at the Churchill War Rooms in Whitehall, where some of the most important and secret decisions were made during the conflict. It joins war art by Sir Henry Moore, Eric Ravilious, and Leila Faithfull, and others.
Commenting on the news, Rebecca Newell, Head of Art at the IWM, said: ‘It’s a real privilege to receive this loan of The Freedom Portrait and have the opportunity to display it as part of our first ever art trail at Churchill War Rooms.’
‘The Map Room is one of the most visually interesting areas in this historic site, where so many crucial discussions took place, so it seemed extremely apt to display such a historically significant painting within these walls,’ she added.
‘We are delighted to allow the public to get up-close to this fresh and revealing portrait, which helps to deepen our understanding of Churchill’s experience during the war.’
The portrait is the property of a private owner in America, and is on loan until 24 April this year, when the exhibition will close.