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Leighton House Museum reveal Black Panther’s Son and Churchill

  • Meetings in Marrakech: the paintings of Hassan El Glaoui and Winston Churchill
  • NEW Exhibition at Leighton House Museum, Holland Park Road, London W14 8LZ. 20 January – 31 March 2012
  • First time the paintings of Winston Churchill have been exhibited with another artist
  • Exhibition of 24 paintings unveils the unique and binding relationship of two men from different worlds who shared a common love for Morocco and painting.

The work of two vastly different artists are brought together in a unique exhibition being held at Leighton House, at Holland Park Road. The artists in question are Hassan El Glaoui and Winston Churchill, two people from as radically different cultures as you can possibly get.

There will be 24 paintings in total on display; 15  from El Glaoiu and 9 from Churchill, and many of those in from the former have never been seen on display previously in the UK. It is also the first time that works by Churchill have been exhibited in public along with the work of another artist. The exhibition will open to the public on January 20th 2012 and will run through March 31st 2012.

Churchill and El Glaoui’s bond is unique: it was only through Churchill’s intervention that Hassan El Glaoui, the young Berber tribesman, was permitted to pursue professionally his passion for painting.  Hassan El Glaoui, the son of the Pasha of Marrakech, Hadj Thami El Glaoui – also known as the Black Panther – was born into one of the oldest Berber families in Morocco, who for generations were considered the most fearless warriors of the Atlas region.  Against his father’s wishes, Hassan chose to follow an artistic path and become a painter – something that was at the time considered highly unsuitable for a Berber tribesman.

During a trip to Marrakech, while visiting the Glaoui Family in 1943, Winston Churchill was shown some paintings by the young Hassan El Glaoui, and seeing the high quality of the work insisted to his father, his old friend the Pasha of Marrakech, that he be allowed to pursue his passion for painting.  It was at Churchill’s behest that El Glaoui was allowed to continue to paint, and in doing so set El Glaoui on the path to becoming one of Morocco’s most significant artists, who’s work today is among the most sought after contemporary North African art in the world, commanding huge sums at auction.

Sir Winston Churchill, who as well as being Britain’s iconic war-time Prime Minister was also an accomplished landscape painter, first visited the Moroccan city of Marrakech in 1935.  He would develop a lasting affection for the city, which Churchill considered “one of the loveliest spots in the whole world”, and would paint the city many times.

Now for the first time El Glaoui and Churchill’s paintings are brought together, revealing surprising similarities between these two men. El Glaoui’s depictions of warriors riding on horseback into battle, such as those shown in this exhibition, would have been familiar to Churchill, who was part of the cavalry engaged in the Battle of Omdurman in 1898. Churchill often gave his paintings as gifts to visiting Statesmen, such as the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Today El Glaoui’s work is presented by the King of Morocco to visiting dignitaries and statesmen such as George Bush and Jacques Chirac.

Daniel Robbins, Director of Leighton House Museum said: “We are extremely fortunate to have these unique collections here at Leighton House, not only because they are outstanding paintings from a beautiful part of North West Africa, but because they tell such a remarkable story. They reveal both a hitherto unseen glimpse into the private and artistic life of one of Britain’s most significant figures, Winston Churchill, and the beautifully expressive work of one of Morocco’s most significant painters, Hassan El Glaoui”.

Hassan El Glaoui said: “Painting has always been my life – it is unthinkable to me not to paint.  However I often realise that without that fateful meeting with Winston Churchill in 1943 my parent’s attitude to me painting might have prevented me enjoying such a wonderful and fulfilling life as an artist.

It is a wonderful privilege to share this exhibition with the work of a man who not only is so historically significant, but with whom I share such a profound personal significance with as well”.

Celia Sandys, Granddaughter of Winston Churchil said: “I hope that my grandfather is smiling down on this exhibition. He would have liked the idea of the paintings which gave him so much pleasure, in a country that he loved so much, hanging side by side with those by Hassan El Glaoui, the son of his old friend the Pasha of Marrakech.”

The private view for Meetings in Marrakech: the paintings of Hassan El Glaoui and Winston Churchill takes place on 19 January in the intimate surrounds of Leighton House – an international symbol of East meeting West.  The exhibition, which includes previously unseen work by both artists opens to the public 20 January and runs until 30 March.



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