Churchill Exhibit at Millennium Gate: ‘A Bit of a Coup for Atlanta’

Atlanta scores a coup with Winston Churchill exhibit at Millennium Gate. 

  • Millennium Gate opened an important new exhibit.
    Millennium Gate opened an important new exhibit.
  • See the paintings of Winston Churchill at Millennium Gate.
    See the paintings of Winston Churchill at Millennium Gate.
  • His easel made the trip from England.
    His easel made the trip from England.
  • Still Life with Fruit, 1930s
    Still Life with Fruit, 1930s
  • Lake Near Breccles in Autumn, 1930s
    Lake Near Breccles in Autumn, 1930s

If you’ve never visited Millennium Gate or if it’s been a while since you were there, the 17th Street museum in Atlantic Station now offers the perfect excuse to either visit for the first time or to return.

The exhibit, “The Art of Diplomacy: Winston Churchill and the Pursuit of Painting,” just opened and will be in Atlanta through Feb. 1. The Millennium Gate exhibit is the largest U.S. exhibition of Churchill’s work since the 1965 World’s Fair in New York. You won’t be alone if you didn’t know that Winston Churchill painted. But you may find it interesting to know that he found painting to be a great distraction from daily pressures.

A booklet accompanying the exhibit notes: “Painting gave Churchill relief from the nearly unbearable stress he was under: as art historian Ernst Gombrich said, ‘his [Churchill’s] painting may have saved Western civilization.’”

In a Wall Street Journal article about the exhibit, David Coombs -- a British authority on the art of Churchill -- was quoted, “This is a bit of a coup, to put it mildly, for Atlanta.” Coombs is co-author of “Sir Winston Churchill: His Life and His Paintings.”

The exhibit’s Georgia presence began in August with brief stays in LaGrange, Sea Island, Columbus and Macon. After it leaves Atlanta, it will continue to Rome, Athens and Savannah.

The exhibit commemorates the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death (Jan. 24, 1965) and, as the Wall Street Journal article points out, is important to museum founder Rodney Mims Cook Jr.’s wish to promote Georgia’s historical links to Great Britain.

So, what will you see at the exhibit?
1.    Churchill’s outdoor easel. Its visit here is the first time it’s been outside of England.
2.    More than 30 paintings, many of which have never been seen publicly before.
3.    A painting that Churchill gave to Franklin Roosevelt. After Roosevelt died, it went to his children, who ultimately sold it. Recently, the painting was purchased by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who lent it to Millennium Gate for this exhibition.
4.    A painting, “Winter, St. Louis Creek,” by Dwight David Eisenhower.
5.    A photo of both Churchill and Eisenhower firing Thompson submachine guns. Also in the photograph is a Georgian, Lt. Col. Benjamin Mart Bailey Jr., who married into Georgia’s Callaway family and was killed on D-Day.
6.    A photograph of Churchill speaking at Georgia Tech’s Grant Field in 1932 and photos of him in Georgia Tech’s yearbook, “Blueprint.”
7.    Seventeen paintings belonging to Duncan Sandys, Churchill’s great grandson who lives in Atlanta.
8.    What you won’t see, but may very well feel, is awe at being in the midst of Churchill’s paintings and thankfulness for his brilliant leadership and refusal to give in or give up even during the darkest hours of World War II. 

Carol Carter, a journalist and author of a children’s novel, writes for Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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