Did Churchill Really Say That? Has Anyone Said Anything Since?

Woke up this morning thinking about quotes and people that support the arts, and people who don’t support the arts and the comparisons made to them (see Godwin’s Law) and began to wonder about some things.

I did a little checking on the internet about this quote: It was once suggested to Winston Churchill that he cut funding to the arts to pay for Britain’s war, to which he responded “Then what would we be fighting for?”

Nobody can seem to pinpoint where he said it. It’s a very Churchill thing to say though.

I like this one as well: the Direc­tor of the National Gallery, Ken­neth Clark, sug­gested that the paint­ings in the National Gallery should be sent from Lon­don to Canada. Churchill was like­wise against this sug­ges­tion, and emphat­i­cally so. “No,” he min­uted, “bury them in caves and cel­lars. None must go. We are going to beat them.”

Also a marvelous quote: “Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?” – Gabrielle Roy. I like that it’s on the back of the twenty. And it’s a Canadian woman.

The first Churchill quote is a biggie when it comes to arts cuts. I can see why – a wartime Conservative Prime Minister who GOT it. But it got me to thinking – aren’t there other great quotes about the importance of art in a society?And why don’t we use more of them? Surely someone else has something momentous to say about the importance of what we do. And those quotes should make it into our deputations and fundraiser toasts as well.

Little help, here?

11 Comments to “Did Churchill Really Say That? Has Anyone Said Anything Since?”

  1. Not true, actually, Megan. I don’t know myself whether Churchill DID say this, but he certainly might well have done. To suggest he just wouldn’t is inaccurate. There was a government-funded Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) established in 1940 – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arts_Council_of_Great_Britain.

    Churchill was a Conservative all right – but we must beware of looking at left/right, Labour/Conservative through 21st century spectacles. The “left=liberal/cultural/libertarian vs right=Philistine/monetarist/repressive” dichotomy didn’t really apply in the UK till the 1980s. Before that, many culturally liberal thinkers were politically Conservative (or else Liberal Party – a genuine third choice in those days), and many (not all!) Socialists were utilitarian, and culturally retrograde (racist, anti-feminist, homophobic) to a man.

  2. It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. (Winston Churchill)

  3. Not true, Megan. While the quote chosen is not an accurate one, see Churchill Historian Richard Langworth’s blog of March 7, 2009: http://richardlangworth.com/arts
    “…in address­ing the Royal Acad­emy on 30 April 1938, Churchill expressed sim­i­lar views. Although he was refer­ring to paint­ing and sculp­ture, it is not hard to believe he would have applied these thoughts to the Arts in general:
    -The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them….ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.”

  4. Then there’s the Kurt Vonnegut quote. “Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

  5. I have a collection of art quotes posted around my classroom. I think only a few specifically address the importance of arts to society as a whole, but I’ll try to remember to send en to you soon.

  6. You won’t find that Churchill quotation in his books, papers, etc because he said it in Parliament. You’d have to go to Hansard and figure out what day he said it to determine if it’s true or not. I have always heard the quotation as his response to the suggestion of cutting the funding for the department of culture – “Cut culture? Then what are we fighting for?” The UK did fund culture – museums, libraries, and even films, at that time. (Most British museums are still admission-free due to this.) The Arts Council as it exists today didn’t exist, but there was certainly a Ministry or Department of Culture – I think it’s now called Culture and Tourism.

    As for moving the art – it didn’t go as far as Canada, but it did go to Wales – see this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/northwest/sites/blaenau/pages/manodquarry.shtml

  7. Yeah, that Churchill quote is a lovely one, but pretty much wishful thinking.

    First, he was a staunch crazy right-wing guy, perfect war-time prime-minister. If there had been arts funding at the time he wld have transfered it to the war effort in a heartbeat.

    Second, the UK didn’t start publically funding art until the 50s.

    The closest people have come to finding anything Churchill said on art was the bit you cited above abt moving art to Canada and him saying that it was unnecessary because they were going to win the war.

    Too bad though, it is a FANTASTIC quote.

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