On July 31 an icon of 20th Century American engraving, Winston Churchill, died after a long illness. He was 83. Churchill was from seasoned Yankee stock; his Vermont farm came to the family for service in the Revolutionary War. From his earliest years Churchill loved to draw and carve wildlife. At age 14 he showed hand-eye skills when he made a new stock for a Damascus shotgun. Shortly thereafter he was apprenticed making patterns in a local foundry.
But it was only after Churchill obtained Louis Nimschke’s book of engraving patterns that he found his life’s calling. He was simply stunned by the beauty on steel. Within a short time he began to grave curvilinear lines, and then he found work with a local engraver.
In 1969 Churchill made a quantum leap when he was hired at Griffin & Howe, in New York City, to work with Josef Fugger. Fugger taught him a great deal, but it was Churchill’s talent and ambition that made him successful. Out on his own, he began signing his work and asking for just compensation.
One of today’s best engravers, Brian Hochstrat, said of Churchill: “Winston was a giant among 20th Century engravers, standing with the likes of Nimschke and Kornbrath. The realism of his game scenes moved the art forward, and his wage helped us all make a living.”
An artist for all seasons, Churchill was a polymath; he could sculpt bronzes, paint, carve renaissance wall panels and make Chippendale furniture. It seemed there was no limit to his hand. He also loved to play the guitar and sing with his wife, Judith. When he was not in the studio, a favorite pastime was building pasture walls with granite fieldstones. It was great exercise and, thriftily, required foraging. True to form, Churchill chose each stone for its size, shape and color.