The Story Behind the Churchill Portrait

The Globe & Mail newspaper recently had the chance to talk to Geoff Regan, Speaker of the House of Commons, for a piece about the secrets of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block. One story he told, unfortunately, didn’t make it into the article. Here, for your interest, is the tale behind one of the most famous political portraits of all time – taken in the backrooms of the Speaker of the House of Commons. It’s, in Mr. Regan’s words, edited lightly for length.

“In December of 1941, things were not going all that well in the war. It was a difficult time in Britain. People, of course, were worried about a German invasion at any moment. The ships coming from places like Halifax, convoys crossing the Atlantic, many of those ships were being sunk by U-boats.

“Then on December 7, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour. Of course, [British Prime Minister Winston] Churchill had been working on [U.S. President Franklin] Roosevelt for two years by then, trying to get the Americans more engaged in the war. After Pearl Harbour, on the eighth of December, the Americans declared war. Churchill took the dangerous trip across the Atlantic to meet with Roosevelt. He had Christmas dinner with the Roosevelts. And then, on the 30th of December, he came here [to Ottawa] and addressed a joint session of Parliament.

“During his speech, among other things, he talked about French surrender. He said [Mr. Regan adopts a Churchill impression]: ‘French generals told their government that within two weeks Britain would have its neck wrung like a chicken. Some chicken.’ And of course, the House of Commons erupted with applause. ‘Some neck.’ Erupted again with applause. A roar.

“He finishes his speech, comes in here [the offices of the Speaker of the House of Commons]. Sees there’s a camera set up, lighting set up by a young photographer by the name of Yousuf Karsh.

“Churchill says: ‘I wasn’t told about this!’ And his staff kind of chuckle, because they knew about it. He’s standing about here, as you can see by the background of the photo – the paneling of the wall is in the background of the photo. He’s smoking a cigar and smiling. But this not what Karsh thinks represents the image of this guy who’s the leader of the free world. Who everybody’s heard on radio giving unbelievable speeches, keeping the will of the people up. Their defiance. Their determination to continue. And of the allies throughout the Commonwealth.

“So he wants to capture his personality. Karsh asks [Churchill] to take the cigar out of his mouth and he refuses. Obviously, Churchill likes his cigars. So Karsh walks over to Churchill with a light metre, as if he’s taking a reading. Of course, he’s already done everything he needs to do – everything is ready, the aperture, the shutter speed, was all perfect already. And he says: ‘Forgive me, sir.’ And he grabs the cigar, walks back to the camera and takes the picture. And that’s the reaction he gets. It becomes, perhaps, the most famous photographic portrait ever taken.”

Above: Nelson Mandela and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in the Canadian House of Commons in 1998, admiring Karsh’s portrait of Churchill in the spot where it was taken.



“My portrait of Winston Churchill changed my life. I knew after I had taken it that it was an important picture, but I could hardly have dreamed that it would become one of the most widely reproduced images in the history of photography. In 1941, Churchill visited first Washington and then Ottawa. The Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, invited me to be present. After the electrifying speech, I waited in the Speaker’s Chamber where, the evening before, I had set up my lights and camera. The Prime Minister, arm-in-arm with Churchill and followed by his entourage, started to lead him into the room. I switched on my floodlights; a surprised Churchill growled, ‘What’s this, what’s this?’ No one had the courage to explain. I timorously stepped forward and said, ‘Sir, I hope I will be fortunate enough to make a portrait worthy of this historic occasion.’ He glanced at me and demanded, ‘Why was I not told?’ When his entourage began to laugh, this hardly helped matters for me. Churchill lit a fresh cigar, puffed at it with a mischievous air, and then magnanimously relented. ‘You may take one.’ Churchill’s cigar was ever present. I held out an ashtray, but he would not dispose of it. I went back to my camera and made sure that everything was all right technically. I waited; he continued to chomp vigorously at his cigar. I waited. Then 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 that I took the photograph.”

Union Club Fundraiser Raises over $32,000 for AGGV



The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has received a cheque for over $32,000 from the Union Club of BC following a highly successful Art+Fare 3 Gala.  The event which took place on Sept. 23 raised money to support programming for children and families at the AGGV.

The Gallery has a long history of engaging children of all ages in art and art-making and this support ensures they will continue to provide Family Sundays, school tours and workshops, resource guides for teachers outlining projects and activities suitable for K-12 students, and the New Extreme Mentorship Program that puts local artists together with young people who are artistically inclined.

“We are most grateful to the Union Club of BC, for their support of programs which assist us in bringing art to children and families throughout the Capital Region,” said Jon Tupper, AGGV Director. “It was a fantastic event bringing art and art lovers together.”

Art has played an important role for the Union Club of BC throughout it’s long history. Two of the earliest members of the Union Club of BC were architects  Francis Rattenbury and Samuel Maclure, both also founding members of Victoria’s arts community. As well, the Union Club of BC  art collection dates at least back to the time when the Club moved into its clubhouse on Douglas Street in 1885. In recent years  the Club has endeavoured to underscore its engagement with the community through  lively programs of art activities including events such as speakers and demonstrations, exhibitions, and further art acquisitions which reflect the personalities, events and places of British Columbia.

Art+Fare has raised over $65,000 for the AGGV’s children and family programs since it’s inception in 2015.  Art+Fare 4 is scheduled for Sept. 22, 2018.

BBC News: Ever Fancied Joining a Private Members’ Club?

Above: The Hospital Club is one of a new breed of trendy private members’ clubs

A new breed of fashionable private members clubs are growing in popularity around the world, promising to be more inclusive and diverse than their stuffy older counterparts.

Yet while the newer venues certainly have a far more youthful membership, and you certainly don’t need to have gone to a posh school or university, they still have high joining fees and strict vetting processes.

So how less elitist are they? And what are the benefits of getting your name on the list?

“I like how organically relationships happen at Soho House,” says tech entrepreneur Tyler McIntyre. “You can’t wear business suits, you can’t hand out business cards, and you can’t take phone calls.”

The 26-year-old joined Soho Beach House in Miami two years ago, after visiting with friends who were members.

“It’s a laidback place to network but it’s also given me the opportunity to try things I typically wouldn’t do by myself, like wine tastings or a jam-making class.”

Above: Soho House New York has a rooftop pool

“And sometimes I’ll go to the sunset DJ parties by the pool, which are loud and pretty crazy.”

Welcome to the new breed of private members’ club, which claim to be less restrictive and more diverse than the stuffy gentlemen’s clubs of the past.

These modern venues – with their co-working spaces, screening rooms and rooftop pools – are fast becoming the places where many of today’s young creative class choose to work and play.

Membership isn’t cheap though, with some charging more than $2,000 (£1,500) per annum, along with joining fees of $300.

“In the past, members’ clubs were seen as being elitist and populated by people who went to the same public schools and universities,” says Richard Cope, a senior trends consultant at Mintel.

“But these places are more for entrepreneurs and self-made people. The only thing you have to be able to do is pay the fee, and it can be fairly expensive.”

Soho House is thought to have been the first of this new wave of clubs, having opened its first site in London in 1995.

However, the trend is gaining a foothold in the US and other countries.

“We’ve see a huge jump in the number of the new types of club coming online, as compared to the traditional model,” says Zack Bates of Private Club Marketing, a firm that promotes members’ clubs.

Soho House Barcelona looks to attract creative entrepreneurs

“In Los Angeles, you can’t get into Soho House. So others are being built, the Hospital Club, Griffin House and Norwood, to keep up with the appetite for these spaces.”

Soho House itself now boasts 18 venues around the world, including in New York, Istanbul, Berlin, and soon Mumbai.

Group revenue rose 3% in 2016 to £293.4m, while global membership jumped from 56,000 to 70,000.

However, you have to do more than just fill out an application to join its venues.

Membership costs between £400 to £1,580 per annum, depending on the club, although there are discounts for under-27s.

Above: The gym at Soho House Barcelona

And there’s a tough background check to ensure potential members are part of the creative class – Soho House frowns on those who work in financial services, for instance.

Once accepted, members enjoy a host of perks. Soho House Barcelona, for example, one of the chain’s newest venues, boasts a retro-themed gym, pool and free classes like yoga.

Members pay full price for food and drink but get discounts on the club’s hotel rooms.

Mr Cope says: “These clubs offer people a discreet place to network and wind down, typically in cities where personal space is at a premium.”

However, they are also about “showing off to a degree”.

“In an age of social media, people like to let others know where they hang out or which restaurants they eat at. So there’s an element of satisfying those peacock tendencies.”

Above: The Hospital Club has a TV and music studio on site

The newer clubs do serve more practical functions, though, such as offering young entrepreneurs a place to work.

Take London’s Hospital Club, based in Covent Garden, which offers its own meeting and conference rooms, and even an in-house TV and music recording studio. Standard membership costs £865 plus a £250 joining fee.

While some might find such fees high, it’s still cheaper than forking out for your own office space, says Mr Bates.

“It suits today’s digital nomads, who work remotely via their laptops. Paying for an office can be prohibitively expensive, especially in a major city.”

Members’ clubs also offer vital networking opportunities that help further your career, says Zikki Munyao, 40.

The remote IT worker joined Common House, a private member’s club in Charlottesville, USA, largely for this purpose.

Above: The co-working space at Common House

“There are areas to socialise and meeting spaces where I can have privacy,” he says of the club, where membership costs $150 (£113) a month, plus a $600 joining fee.

“I even met my estate agent over a game of pool.”

The new breed of members’ clubs does face challenges, though.

Some warn that as clubs proliferate, their exclusivity is becoming diluted, and they struggle to attract the celebrities that once lent them cachet.

The social commentator Peter York tells the BBC: “Traditionally private members’ clubs have played on their exclusivity and being able to attract the ‘magic people’.

“But as more and more of them pop up, you get blase. The magical people also can’t be corralled in one place anymore.”

He adds that as clubs like Soho House keep on expanding, they seem to be “more about business”, which further dilutes their brand.

“The danger is that a new challenger, which looks younger and groovier, arrives and steals your limelight.”

But Mr Cope believes the market for these new clubs is going to expand.

“Having somewhere where you can unwind and host friends in the centre of cities is useful. So there are a lot of practicalities around this.

“It is also about expressing your individuality, so I think the emotional need for this is only going to grow.”


The Union Club’s Coat of Arms

The Significance of the Union Club Coat of Arms:

In Canada, a coat-of-arms granted by the Crown is an honour akin to an appointment to the Order of Canada or other decoration for meritorious service. In our case, the Governor General’s office has seen fit to honour our club in recognition of our history of contributions made to Victoria and the wider community.

At the centre of our arms is a depiction of the keystone over the main entrance to our clubhouse. As its purpose is to hold a structure together, it represents unity, and thus our club’s name. It is surrounded by an open wreath of golden maple leaves, in a ‘U’ shape, recalling the political goal of our founders: a ‘union’ of the Crown Colony of British Columbia with the Dominion of Canada. The artist has painted six maple leaves in the wreath, suggesting that B.C. was the sixth colony to join Canada.

Above the keystone and maple leaves are the waves and the sun-in-splendour from the Royal Arms of British Columbia. They directly signify our club as a club of British Columbia, and also the successive Lieutenant Governors who have been members. As design elements, they appear in the top portion of our shield, as they did in B.C’s arms at the time our club was founded.

A helmet sits atop our shield, as is traditional in heraldry. It is crested by a coronet of maple leaves and Pacific dogwood flowers (the provincial flower of B.C.). This coronet serves to again emphasize our name and origin, as advocating ‘union’ with the dominion. And from this coronet a lion’s paw extends, grasping a sword in a blue scabbard. The lion’s paw suggests the lion in the Royal Crest of B.C. The sword was inspired by the replica weapon borne by our modern presidents, as a symbol of their office (nicknamed, ‘Excalibur’). As a whole, the lion’s paw issuing from a coronet and grasping a weapon suggests the crest of our founding president, Sir Matthew Begbie. He bore a crest of an armoured arm issuing from a coronet and grasping a spear. Depicting our sword sheathed also recalls the badge of Knights Bachelors, which Sir Matthew would have borne.

Supporting the shield are a wapiti deer and cougar. The former is a supporter in the Royal Arms of B.C. And both are animals native to Vancouver Island. Each has a ‘collar’ of laurel, recalling the laurel wreath used to encircle our club’s monogram. And they stand on a rocky mount, reminiscent of the rocky outcroppings around Victoria and her harbour, strewn with local Douglas-fir branches. The waves beneath allude to our location at Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

Our motto is Latin (a traditional language for heraldic mottoes) can be translated as, ‘Friendship In Unity and In Strength’.

We have also been granted an heraldic badge and flag, for use by our members. These are a depiction of the club’s keystone, and (for the flag) that same badge on a flag of royal blue. To represent the club as a body, we use the design depicted on our shield as a flag (just as the provincial government uses the design from the Royal Arms of B.C. on their flags).

Stephen Lowe – A Bridge Between Cultures

Stephen Lowe was born in Quangdong and was long a resident of Victoria before his death from lymphoma at the age of 37.

Lowe spent most of his life in Victoria, beloved by students and collectors here. It’s inexplicable how he achieved such skill and produced so much in the short time he had. And it is even more surprising to realize that his work and his example are enormously appreciated in the burgeoning world of Chinese art.

Stephen, the eldest of five children, made his way to Hong Kong at age 17, and his determination to study art led him to Zhao Shaoang, leading exponent of the “Lingnan school,” a progressive and atmospheric style of painting that is the distinctive expression of South China. At the request of his grandfather, Lowe emigrated to Canada in 1956, at 18 years of age. He arrived to find his grandfather living in a lean-to in a ghost town, one of the few surviving emigrés still living in Cumberland.

Lowe’s talent and personality brought him valuable support in Victoria. Through connections from his first job, as a room steward at the Union Club, he was sponsored for a year in Hong Kong, where he continued his studies and met Eunice, his wife-to-be.

Fast forward over 50 years, to present day, and Club member Eunice Lowe is celebrating the release of the book she has been working on since 2005 – “Stephen Lowe – A Bridge Between Cultures”.

As Robert Amos states: “The book is a delight. The 330 pages include reproductions of 125 paintings in colour, some of the reproductions 50 centimetres across. The Chinese-language version has been published by the People’s Fine Art Publishing House of China, and the English-version, privately published. The quality of layout, paper stock and binding are beyond anything available in this country.”

Eunice Lowe has recently supplied the Club with copies of the marvelous book (in both English and Chinese), which are now on display and for sale in the Club’s display case.

Amos concludes: “What a story: A penniless immigrant lad, with nothing but native talent and the support of Victorians, created a timeless body of work in a few short years, far from home. And now Stephen Lowe’s reputation is reaching heights we just can’t imagine. Victoria’s art culture is rich.”

Donate to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

In advance of September 23rd’s ART+FARE3, Club members are invited to donate to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, in support of the Children and Family Programs at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

For this reason, a donation station has been set-up in the Club’s main lobby. All donations received will be entered into a draw to win 6 bottles of Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris!!  The draw will take place during Art+Fare 3.

For further information relating to Art+Fare 3, please visit the Art+Fare website.


A Club for People Age 35 and Over Just Opened in NYC

If you’re sick and tired of the flocks of selfie-taking, avocado toast–eating youths that fill up dance halls across New York City these days, a new club in Chelsea is the place for you.

RetroClubNYC, which opened its doors last Thursday at 161 W 23rd Street, is geared toward the 35-and-over crowd. Now open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the spot features throwback music from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s and aims to be reminiscent of the bygone clubs of those eras.

“We’re catering to a slightly older crowd,” owner Jeff Wittels tells us. “I don’t think there are any dance clubs like that in the city.”

The bar is more of a celebration than a recreation of New York City’s discotheques of yore and is designed to attract people who twinkled their toes into the night when acts like the Bee Gees and Sylvester were at their height.

“We’re bringing back the vibe from the old days of Studio 54,” Wittels said, “except without some of the things that got them into trouble back then.”

If you’re a twentysomething who simply wants to groove out to some vintage jams, fear not. RetroClubNYC is open to anyone older than 21, and Wittels said that its debut last week attracted people of all ages (and an Australian tourist). He also said that the bar’s DJs are including some contemporary tunes on their playlists, citing Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.”

Wittels first announced the concept for the club back in January, and it drew more hype than almost any other “trendy” bar opening in the city. Its Instagram account has amassed more than 13,000 followers since then, and the space has already started booking private events.

The bar is still working on its food and drink menu, but Wittels says it will feature small plates and “drinks that you don’t really see anymore,” including sloe gin fizzes, Long Island iced teas and a rotating signature drink called The Retro, the ingredients of which are kept secret.

For now, the club will open its doors at 9pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, but Wittels is hoping to add more days during the week this fall.

Wittels declined to tell us his age, but assured us that he is definitely older than 35.

14 Sophisticated Fall Decorating Ideas

Gorgeous autumn decor that doesn’t just rely on pumpkins.

Decorating for fall doesn’t solely mean adding pumpkins to every nook and cranny of your house. Here are 14 sophisticated ways to decorate your home for autumn:

Bowls of lavender, fall fruits, and berries are an unexpected trio…

Add squash and rosehips to your table and counter top:

Flint corn anywhere and everywhere—​​especially hanging from your front door:

Huge mum planters adorning your entry way:

An autumnal garland of pomegranates, dried berries, and leaves for your mantle:

A vase of dahlias in a rich autumn hue:

Or a vase of sunflowers for a brighter, fall perspective:

Make your own birch-bark wreath for a personal DIY touch:

Candle sticks made out of mini pumpkins and gourds:

Swap your regular glasses for rich gold goblets and flutes:

A berry wreath adorned with a harvest plaid ribbon:

Add a simple rocking chair (or two) for some rustic appeal:

Any wagon addition to the front yard is both aesthetic and quintessentially autumn:

And when all else fails put together a gorgeous bouquet of sedum and dahlias:

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Looks Forward to a Busy September

September is an excellent time to consider visiting, or re-visiting, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Activities and events being staged include the ever-popular House Tour, a tour of unique and architecturally stunning Victoria homes, on Sept. 24.

Tickets for the event go on sale on Friday.

The first Tuesday of the month is always Admission by Donation Day, your excuse to spend a morning (or afternoon) exploring the galleries.

The gallery’s new Water Work Space is part-exhibition and part- workshop. It opens with a public open house and admission by donation on Sept. 16.

The space explores issues related to water — as a resource, a site of trade and exchange, and in relation to climate change.

The Party for our People, a celebration with local and regional artists featured in current exhibitions, features music, refreshments and interactive activities. It takes place on Sept. 21, from 6 to 9 p.m.

ART + FARE 3 is a celebration of all things local (and an annual fundraiser). It is held at and organized by the Union Club of British Columbia. The event takes place on Sept. 23, from 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets are available at

There are three exhibition tours offered in September, the cost is included with admission:

• Moving Forward by Looking Back, Sept. 2 at 2 p.m.

• Close to Home, Sept. 3 at 2 p.m.

• Close to Home Curator’s Tour, Sept. 5 at 2 p.m.

AGGV House Tour

AGGV House Tour set for 64th Anniversary edition

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and the Gallery Associates invite you to mark your calendar for Sunday, Sept. 24 when they present the 64th Anniversary House Tour. A mix of new and stunningly renovated homes, five of Oak Bay’s most beautiful residences will be open for viewing from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In addition to viewing the unique Oak Bay residences, visitors will have the opportunity to chat with local artists working at each location. This year artists include: Richard Hunt, acclaimed First Nations carver; Mary Fox, ceramic artist; Will Millar, former leader of the Irish Rovers and renowned painter; Mary-ellen Threadkell, abstract painter; Keith Holmes painter, muralist and graphic artist and Joan Pattee, multi-genre painter. To accent the design of the homes, each stop on the tour also features imaginative floral creations from the Victoria Floral Artists’ Guild.

“This year’s House Tour includes not only excellent architecture and interior design but the homes also feature significant works by renowned artists,” said Bill Huzar, 2017 House Tour Chair. “Visitors will have the chance to enjoy the superb personal art collections that owners have on their walls throughout the homes.”

Huzar added, “the tour is the annual Gallery Associates’ major fundraiser in support of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All funds raised go toward supporting programs and operational expenses incurred by the Gallery. The Gallery Associates volunteer, promote and support the AGGV through fundraising events and programs.”

Tickets for the self-directed tour cost $35 and go on sale September 1 at the AGGV, 1040 Moss Street; online at