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story.lead_photo.caption This painting by U.S. President John F. Kennedy hangs — for now — at America's National Churchill Museum. Titled "Harbor Scene from the South of France," he painted it in 1955 using oil with pencil on a canvas board. It was given to Kennedy's brother Bobby and his wife, Ethel, and they hung it for many years until they gave it to their son Michael as a wedding gift. Photo by Jenny Gray / Fulton Sun.

There have been many times in the course of history that art has soothed the heart of a human being.

Case in point: Sir Winston Churchill. And former U.S. presidents, too.

If your thing is paintings by former statesmen, then a visit to America's National Churchill Museum is in order. The museum currently offers the first public viewings of paintings by three American presidents, side by side with those by Churchill.

This collection of paintings, "Painting as a Pastime: From Winston to the White House," will be on display in the Anson Cutts Gallery of the museum through July 7.

"I think it's an extraordinary reminder to take time to pause and reflect," said Timothy Riley, Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout director and chief curator.

Even during his time as British prime minister (twice, from 1940-45 and 1950-55), Churchill used the art of painting to center himself.

"Winston Churchill said at one time that painting came to his rescue when he was down," Riley said, adding art is born at "that moment when you face a blank canvas and have to use creativity and imagination to make an image come to life."

Throughout his life, Churchill created more than 570 canvases and came to understand the power of observation, concentration and creativity afforded to him by painting helped him as a leader and a statesman.

"Churchill's passion for painting inspired Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Bush to pursue this colorful pastime," Riley added. "Each of these leaders used painting to refine their individual skills and outlook. To bring them all together in this exhibition is extraordinary."

All three presidential paintings are on loan from the Harlan Crow Library. They hang in an exhibition room leading to another exhibit a year in the making, coined the Special Relationship Project. This exhibit had more than 4,000 paintings done by Callaway County students and a few other fortunate people.

"Hanging them together with art work with K-12 students is powerful," Riley said. "It's the greatest generation meeting the next generation."

The three presidential paintings included in the exhibition are "Portrait of Winston Churchill," 1955, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, "Harbor Scene from the South of France," 1955, by President John F. Kennedy and "Study for Portrait of Winston Churchill," 2017, by President George W. Bush. In the 1960s, both presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy served as honorary co-chairmen of the campaign to establish the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library, now America's National Churchill Museum at Westminster College.

The exhibition helped launch the highly successful Churchill 50th Anniversary Weekend celebration May 3-5.

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