Kent

Churchill gift to Vivien Leigh to go under hammer

Vivien Leigh at the British Embassy, Cecil Beaton Image copyright Sotheby's
Image caption Leigh remained friends with Churchill until his death

An oil painting given to Hollywood icon Vivien Leigh by Sir Winston Churchill is to be sold at auction this year.

The artwork, Roses In a Glass Vase, was painted by the wartime prime minister and shows flowers he picked at his country home, Chartwell, in Kent.

It was given to the Gone with the Wind actress during a supper he hosted in 1951 to celebrate the birthday of her husband, actor Sir Laurence Olivier.

The painting is on display at Sotheby's from Monday.

Expected to fetch £100,000, it is part of a sale in September of a collection of Leigh's belongings including jewellery, couture, books, furniture, porcelain and art.

Image copyright PA/Sotheby's
Image caption The painting was given to Leigh at a birthday supper for Sir Laurence Olivier at Chartwell
Image copyright PA
Image caption The sale includes jewellery and couture

Leigh, who kept the painting on the wall opposite her bed, said it gave her "the determination to go on".

She said: "Whenever I feel particularly low or depressed I look at those three rosebuds.

"The thought and the friendship in the painting is such a great encouragement to me."

Sotheby's said the auction would see the spotlight fall on the screen star's private side.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Items include a gold ring given to Leigh by her husband

Frances Christie, head of Sotheby's modern and post-war British art department, said the painting revealed a deep and long-lasting friendship.

"Churchill's gift of a still life or roses to Vivien speaks volumes about the respect and regard he felt for her," she said.

"Theirs was not a passing acquaintance, but a friendship that endured for more than 20 years."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Clark Gable as Rhett Butler kissing the hand of a tearful Scarlett O'Hara played by Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind
Image copyright PA
Image caption The actress's family are selling 250 items that belonged to her

She said Churchill inspired Leigh to begin painting herself and the pair shared "mutual solace in an activity where they found a refuge from all the trials and tribulations of daily life."

Leigh and Churchill met in 1936 on a film set when she was a little-known actress and Churchill was an established politician.

They remained friends until he died in 1965. Leigh died two years later.

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