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Sunbathers Statues

At the Southbank, the Festival showcased the best in public art. The artist Peter Laszlo Peri was commissioned to create the sculpture The Sunbathers, which greeted Festival visitors at Waterloo station. At the end of the exhibition Joe O’Donnell builder and owner of the Westcombe Park Hotel (Blackheath) purchased the statue at auction and brought them to the Hotel.

 

Josephine O’Donnell, daughter of Joe and one of the current owners of the Clarendon, recalled climbing on The Sunbathers “in our sunken garden at the front of our hotel. I used to call them Adam and Eve. I’m thrilled that they are being given a second lease of life.” The original hotel was eventually sold and Joe O'Donnell bought new premises in Blackheath Village, Montpelier Row and Clarendon Hotel. The statues were moved to the Clarendon Hotel and once again placed in the gardens.  Being constructed of concrete and wire the statues eventually started to deteriorate, and small repairs were made by the hotel's maintenance team. However, it was obvious that specialised restoration skills were needed. These were not to hand and knowing that the statues were from the Festival Exhibition in 1951, the hotel carefully moved and placed the statues in a protective, hidden area in 2014.

Joe O’Donnell passed away in 1993 and children Michael, Patrick and Josephine continued to run the family businesses.  However, unbeknown to the them, the statues were part of a ’lost art list.’  By a stroke of luck a regular resident recognised the statutes as once being on display in the Clarendon Hotel's gardens.
Historic England quickly contacted the hotel in June 2016, and the rare discovery of pieces of art, once thought lost, were dramatically uncovered. The Clarendon Hotel, has now placed the statues in the hands of Historic England and help is needed to rescue this remarkable discovery from the Festival of Britain.
The 1951 Festival of Britain was a national celebration that inspired a whole generation. Showcasing the best in art, design, craft and sport, it was a beacon of hope for a bruised and battered post-war nation.


Photograph: Historic England

Peter Laszlo Peri (June 13, 1899 – January 19, 1967) was an artist and sculptor
Historic England has now set up a fund raising page to raise £27,000 for the restoration.
May 2017 - £18,211 has been raised. 

Help raise money today

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