‘I Wish I Were With You’ Commission for Fortnum & Mason
BRINGING FORTNUMS HOME
TWO COMMISSIONED ARTWORKS FOR THE BOARDROOM — In 2 parts….male and female!
‘I wish I were with you’ Churchill
How do you tell the story of Britain’s greatest leader and where he loved to shop? The first inspiration for this artwork was a letter written by a 16 year old Winston from Harrow School to his Mother, ‘Jennie’ Churchill, telling her that he had received ‘a tremendous hamper from F&M’ which ‘must have cost at least £3 and 10 shillings’. Covered in ink blots and smudges he apologises saying ‘I am so awfully sorry for the blots, but someone has been doing something to the blotting paper’ before signing off affectionately yet with custom formality ‘Good Bye you darling Mummy, with much love and many kisses, I remain your loving son Winston S. Churchill’. This has been hand stitched onto the left sleeve and is where the story begins.
Lady Randolph Churchill was an American heiress (1854 — 1921) considered to be one of the most beautiful women of her time. This silk satin bodice becomes the canvas on which to tell this tale and is fittingly exquisite; complete with whale boning, it belongs to the same era of elegance and is by coincidence of American origin – as shown printed on the label which has been pinned decoratively with antique glass top pins which themselves have individually been silver plated.
No doubt as all good mothers would testify, Lady Randolph was key in shaping the character and career of her eldest son, apparently commenting that she ‘always knew that Winston would be her greatest achievement’. Her own breeding and character comes through strongly in all her portraits, an effigy of which adorns the right sleeve.
Much more anecdotal and actual evidence remains of Churchill’s loyalty to F&M, which has modestly been displayed as a timeline of sorts on the bodice. Numerous invoices show that Clementine and Winston loved to shop at F&M — the most bizarre being the purchase of 6 bottles of Invalid Turtle in 1912!
It is clear that Winston repeatedly chose the store for all his purchases – mutual appreciation culminating in F&M hosting a birthday party to mark his 71st birthday.
Boer War 1899 — Churchill takes a wagonload of F&M edibles to South Africa
[He writes to Clementine asking her purchase her another pair of boots from F&M] From the trenches 1915 ‘with these continual wettings and no means of drying one must have plenty of spares ‘
Cunningham Diaries 1944 ‘after a cup of soup’ – It was Churchill’s habit before going to bed to drink a cup of soup made from F&M soup cubes and said to contain a mild sleeping draught
1945 — F&M host a 71st birthday party for Churchill and present him with a special cake ‘Please accept my cordial thanks for your kind thought and its most agreeable expression’