An original copy of a famous stolen photo on display at the local museum
An original copy of Winston Churchill’s famous photograph at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier has been mysteriously replaced with a forgery, but the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is currently displaying an original copy of the photo.
An original copy of Winston Churchill’s famous photograph at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa has been mysteriously replaced with a forgery, but the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is currently displaying an original copy of the photo.
Dan Conlin is the museum’s curator. He says the photograph, known as The Roaring Lion, is the star of the exhibit titled: The World of Yousuf Karsh: A Private Essence.
“It’s a large, almost life-size photo of Churchill looking at you from December 30, 1941, and people really find that photo moving,” Conlin told CityNews.
I’ll talk about Yousuf Karsh’s famous portrait of Winston Churchill, recently stolen from Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier, on Global TV tomorrow morning at 7:20; and on News 95.7 Radio Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. View original @Pier21 until October 16! pic.twitter.com/O1epu3EMix
—Dan Conlin (@conlin_dan) August 30, 2022
Karsh decreed that upon his death, no more prints would be made from his negatives, Conlin explained.
“So the existing original prints he made from his work are really valuable,” Conlin said.
“That’s why it’s so amazing for us to have 110 in Halifax and so sad that one of the original portraits has been stolen.”
Conlin says the story behind Winston Churchill’s photograph is fascinating.
Conlin says Churchill was visiting North America right after the attack on Pearl Harbor in an effort to rally more support in North America, and had just delivered one of his famous speeches in the House of Commons from Canada.
After the speech, then Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King invited Churchill to join him for a drink in the President’s office.
Upon entering the office, Churchill was greeted by tripods, lights and Yousuf Karsh.
Furious, Churchill slammed his fist on the desk asking why no one had told him about the photographer.
But after drinking a glass of whiskey and lighting a cigar, a calmer Churchill agreed to allow Karsh to take a single shot.
The story goes that after failing to convince Churchill to extinguish the cigar, Karsh leaned forward, snatched the cigar from Churchill and at that moment clicked the shutter to create the photograph world famous that we see today.
Conlin says Karsh had this uncanny ability to capture the essence of a subject.
After Churchill’s original snap, Karsh quickly reconciled with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Churchill agreed to take one more shot, and this time he met Karsh with a smile, Conlin explained.
“But everyone loves the challenge,” Conlin said.
Yousuf Karsh arrived in Canada in Halifax in 1924 as a 15-year-old refugee fleeing the Armenian Genocide, but soon moved to Sherbrooke, Quebec to live with his uncle who was a portrait photographer.
Karsh became a prominent photographer, creating portraits of everyone from Mother Teresa to Ernest Hemingway.
But it was Churchill’s photo that really propelled his international career, Conlin said.
“You will see this portrait appear in every biography; everything written about Churchill has this image,” Conlin said.
Today’s photograph even covers the English five pound note.
Karsh donated the famous photo to the Chateau Laurier, where he owned both an apartment and a studio.
And Conlin, who worked at the hotel, describes her presence as a memory he cherishes deeply.
“As a small 20-year-old radio producer and you met Karsh in the elevator, he would make you feel like the most important person in the world,” Conlin recalled.
“He had this sparkle in his eye and [could] building that instant rapport, and that was so essential to his job – everyone from the king of Saudi Arabia to a Ukrainian farmer growing grain on the grasslands – he could really connect and create that relationship with people. “
The exhibit of 110 photos of Yousuf Karsh’s work will be on view at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 until October 16.
Conlin also said, for those interested, that on September 22 the museum is hosting a panel discussion on the relationship between Karsh and King — a relationship that led to Churchill’s photograph.
The museum’s website reads: “Dive into the relationship between a politician who campaigned against immigration from the ‘East’ and a refugee fleeing genocide from that same region, who was allegedly denied entered Canada because of his birthplace had a relative not already settled here.”