(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
On June 3, 1951 Churchill, then 76, had as his luncheon guests at Chartwell the American Ambassador, Walter Gifford, and President Truman’s daughter, Margaret, to whom he gave a painting for the President.
In Never Despair (Houghton Mifflin& Co., 1988) Churchill’s biographer, Martin Gilbert, tells us some of what followed:
[Shortly thereafter Churchill wrote to “My dear Harry,”]Truman, who greatly admired Churchill and had a keen sense of history, no doubt treasured the picture; and appreciated better than most that when he passed it to Margaret, he’d be leaving her a work with a priceless historical provenance.
"This picture was hung in the [Royal] Academy last year, and is about as presentable as anything I can produce. It shows the beautiful panorama of the Atlas Mountains from Marrakech.
This is the view that I persuaded your predecessor to see before he left North Africa after the Casablanca Conference. He was carried to the top of a high tower, and a magnificent sunset was duly in attendance."
“I can’t find words adequate,” Truman replied, “to express my appreciation of the beautiful picture of the Atlas Mountains, painted by you. I shall treasure that picture as long as I live and it will be one of the most valued possessions I will be able to leave to Margaret when I pass on.”(p. 615)
But did he ever think the painting today, if in good condition, would be worth well more than a million dollars as the prices of Churchill’s paintings at auctions continue to skyrocket?