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Another Karsh obituary

Monday 15 July 2002

Today the Ottawa Citizen carried a longish obituary for Karsh of Ottawa. I’ll quote a piece about the Churchill portrait I mentioned yesterday:

British prime minister Winston Churchill had addressed the Canadian Parliament and Karsh was there to record one of the century’s great leaders.

“He was in no mood for portraiture and two minutes were all that he would allow me as he passed from the House of Commons chamber to an anteroom,” Karsh wrote in Faces of Our Time (U of T Press, 1971), his 10th of 15 books.

“Two niggardly minutes in which I must try to put on film a man who had already written or inspired a library of books, baffled all his biographers, filled the world with his fame, and me, on this occasion, with dread.”

Churchill marched into the room scowling, Karsh wrote, “regarding my camera as he might regard the German enemy.”

His expression suited Karsh perfectly, but the cigar stuck between his teeth seemed incompatible with such a solemn and formal occasion.

“Instinctively, I removed the cigar. At this the Churchillian scowl deepened, the head was thrust forward belligerently, and the hand placed on the hip in an attitude of anger.”

The image captured Churchill and the England of the time perfectly - defiant and unconquerable.

You can see the Churchill portrait, and some Karsh self-portraits, here.

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