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Rare painting of Emerald Lake by Churchill goes to auction

Bow Valley art lovers have a rare opportunity to buy an oil painting of Emerald Lake by none other than former British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill when it goes to auction next week.
Bow Valley art lovers have a rare opportunity to buy an oil painting of Emerald Lake by none other than former British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill when it goes to
Bow Valley art lovers have a rare opportunity to buy an oil painting of Emerald Lake by none other than former British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill when it goes to auction next week.

Bow Valley art lovers have a rare opportunity to buy an oil painting of Emerald Lake by none other than former British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill when it goes to auction next week.

Sotheby’s of London is auctioning the painting on Tuesday (March 20) and, according to the auction website, it is expected that the oil-on-board 34 x 39 cm painting will fetch between $10,000 and $13,000 CAD.

The painting, which is heavily damaged, was one of a handful of works Churchill painted while visiting the Rocky Mountains in 1929. Along with Emerald Lake, Churchill also painted Lake Louise and the Bow River as seen from the balcony of the Banff Springs Hotel.

Bill Murray, who is selling the painting via Sotheby’s, said in an email that he contacted the Outlook in hopes the painting might be bought by a Canadian institution.

“I think that the great man only painted four paintings in Canada, and this is an exceptional opportunity for an organization in Canada to obtain one at a very reasonable price,” wrote Murray.

The painting came to him via his father, Sgt. Edmund Murray, who began working as Churchill’s bodyguard in 1950. He said his father came to own the painting of Emerald Lake after it had been damaged.

“When Dad heard that one of Churchill’s paintings from his 1929 trip to Canada had been badly damaged and was destined to be destroyed, he asked Sir Winston if he could have it and his wish was granted,” wrote Murray on March 13.

Murray added that his father got the job of protecting Churchill – who by that time was leader of the opposition – for his ability to speak fluent French, his accurate aim with a pistol and his love for oil painting. Along with keeping a watchful eye on Churchill, Murray Sr. was also tasked with taking care of Churchill’s paints and canvasses.

There’s even a little bit of Murray’s father’s handiwork on Churchill’s Emerald Lake painting: At some point, in neat white letters, Murray Sr. wrote “Lake Louise Canada” in the lower left corner, not realizing he had the wrong lake.

Calgary historian David Finch, author of the book The TransAlta Story, 1911-2011, noticed the error last year and identified the correct lake.

“In order to arrest the damage, I had the painting expertly framed four years ago,” wrote Murray. “The advice that I was given was to leave the painting unrestored rather than to get a restoration artist to make good the damage. As it is now, there is no doubt that every paint stroke that you can see (with the exception of the incorrect title) is by the hand of Churchill.”

Churchill’s painting of Emerald Lake can be seen by going to www.sothebys.com and searching for ‘Lake Emerald, Canada.’


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