Winston Churchill's Bulldog Scowl: The Story Behind Yousuf Karsh's Iconic Photograph


Famously gruff and tenacious, Prime Minister Winston Churchill earned a deserved reputation as the ‘British Bulldog.’

The cigar-chomping, hard-drinking politician inspired the nation with his rousing speeches and roared when the British Empire needed him the most.

This portrait of his belligerent scowl came to be one of the most famous images ever of the man who led Britain through the Second World War.

Yousuf Karsh's iconic portrait of Winston Churchill, shot in 1941

To mark the week which heralds the 67th anniversary of his Iron Curtain address, here is the entertaining story behind it.

Shot by Turkish-born photographer Yousuf Karsh, the image was taken during Churchill’s visit to Canada in 1941.

The Canadian government commissioned Karsh for a portrait of the British Prime Minister following his speech at the country’s House of Commons in Ottawa.

An impatient and irritable Churchill snapped to Karsh: “You have two minutes. And that’s it, two minutes,” Iconic Photos recounts.

When Karsh asked Churchill to remove the cigar from his mouth, the statesman curtly refused.

A somewhat more upbeat Churchill - with his trademark cigar between his lips - gives his familiar 'V' sign after a meeting with American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles

As which point Karsh walked up to him, plucked the cigar from his lips and captured his glowering expression.

Karsh, who died in 2002, said: “By the time I got back to my camera, he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me.

"The silence was deafening. Then Mr Churchill, smiling benignly, said, ‘You may take another one.’ He walked toward me, shook my hand and said, ‘You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed.’”

The resultant photo was sold to Life magazine, and eventually featured on its front cover in May 1945.

Other famous Karsh portraits include Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein, Fidel Castro and John F Kennedy.

Hat-tip to Reddit for reminding us of this yarn.

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Winston Churchill

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