Lucy Kemp-Welch was a painter and teacher best known for her paintings of working horses in military service in the First World War. She exhibited her first work at the age of 14. In 1891 she attended Hubert Von Herkomer’s celebrated art school.
This painting shows the relief of Ladysmith an episode in the second Boer War of 1899-1902. At the start of the war the Boers, the descendants of Dutch settlers in southern Africa were superior in number and invaded British territory laying siege to Ladysmith, Kimberley and Mafeking.
Winston Churchill took part in the Boer War as a war correspondent. He was captured, taken prisoner then escaped before participating in the relief of Ladysmith. He is the third figure from the left in the painting.
In July 1901 a letter appeared in The Times accusing Lucy Kemp-Welch of historical inaccuracy in depicting Winston Churchill at Ladysmith. Winston Churchill wrote to the paper the following day refuting the accusations made against her and stating the depiction was correct.
Kemp-Welch canvases were huge, so much so that the horses she painted were often larger than her. Her work was often met with surprise that a woman should possess such an ability for depicting horses with power and realism.
She was nominated several times for admission into the Royal Academy but was refused on the grounds that she was a woman. Even Herkomer remarked that it was curious that of all his students, it was a women who had become so successful.