Yousuf KARSH, Winston Churchill Enlarge 1 /1

Yousuf KARSH

Armenia 1908 – United States of America 2002

  • 1925 Canada

Winston Churchill 1941 Creation Notes: printed 1974
Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph Support: card

Dimensions: printed image 99.0 h x 73.6 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1973
Accession No: NGA 74.396.54
Subject: Portrait: male

‘Here was the man who marshalled the English language and sent it into battle, when we had little else.’ (Karsh)

In his address to the Canadian Parliament in 1941, Churchill said ‘The French say in three weeks’ time England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’ Then came his famous rejoinder, ‘Some chicken, some neck!’ The story of how Karsh took Churchill’s photograph is one of defiance on Churchill’s part and remarkable diplomacy on Karsh’s. Churchill was so angry he had not been told he was to be photographed, he lit a fresh cigar and puffed mischievously. Eventually Karsh had everything ready. Relating later what happened he said, ‘I stepped toward him and without premeditation, but ever so respectfully, I said, “Forgive me, Sir” and plucked the cigar out of his mouth. By the time I got back to my camera, he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me. It was at that instant I took the photograph. The silence was deafening. Then Mr Churchill, smiling benignly, said, “You may take another one.” He walked toward me, shook my hand and said, “You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed.”’

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra