People are motivated toward creativity for numerous reasons. For Winston Churchill, he was in the midst of one of his darkest hours when his sister-in-law Gwendolin changed his life.
Because of her, the former British prime minister created 575 paintings. Four of them reside at the National Churchill Museum, the newest of which was unveiled Friday, the 103rd anniversary of his start as a painter.
"This is a great day for the National Churchill Museum," said Tim Riley, director and chief curator of the museum in Fulton.
On June 8, 1915, Winston Churchill was at Hoe Farm, part of the Park Hatch Estate in Surrey, England. He was renting a cottage with his brother Jack and Jack's wife, Gwendolin, for the summer.
Churchill was depressed. He had just been dismissed as First Lord of the Admiralty following the Dardanelle operation where 250,000 British sailors and 250,000 Turkish people had been killed.
"His sister-in-law handed him a brush and said, 'This may help you,'" Riley said at the unveiling.
Churchill began painting, quickly switching from watercolors to oils. He was further encouraged to paint by friend Hazel Lavery, also a painter and wife of celebrated artist Sir John Lavery.
"Churchill found solace in painting," Riley said, adding the pastime, often done plein air, rejuvenated him. "Winston Churchill pursued painting with a passion."
In 1935, he created "Lake Scene at Norfolk," now owned by the National Churchill Museum.
"It was painted when Churchill was in the political wilderness," Riley said.
Churchill was 60 that year and had no governmental position. Many thought his political career was over. He vocally opposed Hitler's new Nazi dictatorship in Germany and called for British rearmament. In fall 1939, Churchill was again named First Lord of the Admiralty and then prime minister the following May. He visited the campus of Westminster College on March 5, 1946, where he gave his "Iron Curtain" speech, starting the Cold War with the then-Soviet Union.
"Lake Scene at Norfolk" is a 20-by-24-inch, oil-on-canvas painting of a tree-lined lake in Norfolk, located on England's east coast along the North Sea.
"It clearly shows Churchill's keen attention to reflected color and light on water," Riley said.
The painting was acquired in December 1993 by Monsanto from Edwina Sandys, Churchill's granddaughter and a noted artist. She said the rarely seen painting was exhibited briefly at a Churchill exhibition she organized with her sister, Celia, in New York City in 1983.
"Lake Scene at Norfolk" then was stored away and safeguarded until it was sold to Monsanto, which previously donated two other Churchill paintings to the museum.
The National Churchill Museum marks its 50th anniversary next year. It also cares for 16 other Churchill paintings on loan from the family, many shown at major exhibitions.
"Where else?" said Anne Weller, president of the Mid-Missouri Friends of the National Churchill Museum, of the donation. "You'd have to go to Great Britain to experience this."
The National Churchill Museum plays an important role in the nation and the world, she added.
"Here is this gem in the middle of Missouri," Weller added. "People from all over the world come here."
She also noted the contributions Riley has made since he took over the museum two years ago.
"We're fortunate to have Tim as director," she said. "He has worked very hard, diligently to raise awareness of the museum, and has traveled nationally to accomplish this."