Benton Painting Given to Churchill Returns to Westminster after 68 Years
In the above video, Jim Hance ’66 brings Thomas Hart Benton’s “The New Fence” back to Westminster.
A Thomas Hart Benton painting given to Sir Winston Churchill in 1946 as a gift for coming to Westminster College to deliver his historic “Iron Curtain” speech returned to the College on Thursday, Dec. 4.
The 12” x 9” Benton portrait of a Missouri farmer mending his fence is entitled “The New Fence.” The painting was presented to Churchill following his famous speech by Westminster Trustee C.D. Smiley. President Harry Truman, who introduced Churchill for his lecture that day, had acquired the painting from Benton for the College to present to the British statesman.
This Benton painting is a gift from James Henry Hance, Jr., Class of 1966, from Osterville, MA, his wife Beverly and the Bank of America and will be displayed in the National Churchill Museum.
“The Benton painting is a wonderful gift to Westminster College and the National Churchill Museum,” says Jim Williams, Class of 1986, who will begin work soon as the new Executive Director of the National Churchill Museum. “Since uncovering the little-known part of Churchill’s visit to Westminster—that he specifically requested a Benton painting in lieu of payment for delivering the Green Lecture in 1946—I have been trying to track down the painting. I am thrilled that the mystery is solved and that the painting is returning to Fulton where everyone can view it at our National Churchill Museum.”
Hance is General Partner, Operating Executive and Director of The Carlyle Group LP. From 1988 to 2004, he was Chief Financial Officer and Vice Chairman of Bank of America Corp.
It is unknown whether Churchill originally gave the painting to a member of his family or a friend but that owner sold it at auction in London in the 1960s. The painting was purchased by Bernard Block who sold it to a private collector in New York. Barnett Bank purchased the painting in 1989 and was acquired by NationsBank in 1997 before becoming a part of the Bank of America legacy.
The painting hung in Hance’s Bank of America office for many years. He purchased it from the company and felt the appropriate home for it was the Westminster campus where it had originally been given to Churchill.
Hance was the 2001 IBM lecturer at Westminster and was given an honorary degree by the College.
“The New Fence” is now available for viewing at the National Churchill Museum at Westminster.
From left to right, Jim Hance ’66; Dr. Carolyn Perry, Senior Vice President and Dean of Faculty; and Suzanne Richardson and Bob De Fer from the Churchill Board of Governors.
Watch the full unveiling ceremony.