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Finely detailed sculpture of a cigar, produced by William McVey, based on the cigar in McVey's statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The full statue was made for outside the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. in 1966. The statue is pictured on the web site of the Cleveland Arts Prize (see References below).
The story behind this sculpture relates to a controversy within the commissioning organization, the English Speaking Union, over whether McVey's monumental 9-foot bronze portrait should show Churchill with his trademark cigar. Churchill was nearly always photographed with one, but the question of whether it was appropriate for the statue left the commission committee split five to five. McVey held to an ethic of authenticity and favored the cigar's inclusion, going so far to work from one with Churchill's teethmarks. The dispute spilled over into the international press. The English Speaking Union resolved the committee's deadlock by polling all its chapters, which voted for the cigar.
After the statue was unveiled in 1966, McVey presented bronze cigars as humorous gifts to the five committee members who had supported him. This example might be one of those cigars, or another produced by McVey. It is executed in precise detail, down to the ashes, tobacco leaf cover, and teeth impressions and would make an unusual gift for an admirer of Churchill or a cigar enthusiast!
William McVey was a highly successful figurative sculptor and educator. Born in Boston, his family moved to Cleveland and he began his art studies at the Cleveland Institute of Art, leaving for a three-year interlude at Rice University on a football scholarship, whereupon he returned and finished his degree. He spent 1929 to 1931 studying sculpture in Paris. McVey has a great number of commissioned works to his credit, especially in Cleveland, Ohio, and vicinity, where according to various accounts, about 50 to 60 of them were located. These included animal and figure sculptures for various parks as well as the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Cleveland Public Library and the Cleveland Zoo. Outside Ohio, notable works included the bust of author Robert Nathan in the Salon d'Automne, Paris; J. Edgar Hoover for the FBI Academy, Virginia; and Senator Harry Flood Byrd on the Virginia State Capital grounds. He produced several works related to Winston Churchill – the monumental statue outside the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., a bust of Churchill at the Smithsonian Institution, and the Churchill Porch at Washington's National Cathedral. McVey's distinguished career also included professorships at the University of Texas, Cranbrook Academy of Art, and the Cleveland Institute of Art, where he headed the sculpture department from 1953 to 1968. He was an associate of the National Academy of Design, fellow of the National Sculpture Society, board member of the International Platform Association and chairman of the National Fulbright Screening Committee for four years. After retiring from teaching, he remained in the Cleveland area.
"Churchill's Cigar." Cleveland Plain Dealer. 4 November 1981.
Hollister, Dean, Amy I. Furman, Mary Bruccoli and Tamara Adams, eds. Who’s Who in American Art. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1989. p. 683.
Sholiton, Faye. "The Cleveland Arts Prize: 1964 Awardees." Cleveland Arts Prize. Fall 2002. http://www.clevelandartsprize.org/visart_1964.htm (15 November 2005).