The Story Behind Winston Churchill’s Bulldog Portrait



I heard today on the news that England is about to issue a five-pound note with the famous photo engraved on it.  It was that jowly face that signified the Prime Minister’s bulldog determination to defend England from the Nazis.

Here is the story behind that photo, which I learned from reading Herman Leonard’s fabulous photo book, Jazz Giants and Journeys.  Leonard was apprenticing in Ottawa, Canada, with the great portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh, famous for his portraits of Hemingway, Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, Andy Warhol, and so many other famous people.

Churchill was in Ottawa for a conference in the early 1940s.  He went to Karsh’s studio to be photographed.  Herman A young Herman Leonard was there learning Karsh’s trade secrets.  The prime minister was in a foul mood, which could be intimidating to all around him;  his barbs could be crippling.  He walked into the famous photographer’s studio smoking a cigar, and Karsh said he had to take the cigar out of his mouth;  no smoking in the studio.  Churchill ignored the request.   Read More →