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Historic England

The Sunbathers by Peter Laszlo Peri has been recovered after 66 years

The Sunbathers, by Hungarian artist Peter Laszlo Peri, was created for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and displayed on the wall of Waterloo station. 

But when the festival closed in September of that year, many of the exhibition’s temporary sculptures either vanished or were destroyed – including Peri’s piece.

Last year Historic England launched a campaign to track down some of Britain’s lost public art, hosting an exhibition at Somerset House called Out There: Our Post-War Public Art.

Sadly the drive had come to no avail – until now. 

A couple who visited the Historic England exhibition identified The Sunbathers as being similar to a sculpture they had seen in the garden of the Clarendon Hotel, in Blackheath.

Now Historic England jhas launched a crowdfunding campaign, hoping to raise £15,000 to restore Peri’s artwork to its former glory. 

Celia Richardson, director of communications at Historic England, said: “The Sunbathers is a remarkable survival.

“It speaks of a time when the Festival gave hope, optimism and colour to a battered and bruised post-war nation.

“Today we are asking the public to help us recreate that spirit and contribute to the restoration of The Sunbathers, so it can delight visitors to the South Bank once again.”

The Sunbathers depicts two figures, a man and a woman, lying on their sides and holding hands.

It was hung vertically on the wall of Waterloo’s Gate entrance, in York Road, and drew notable praise from the celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who wrote about the piece in his essay on the Festival of Britain.

Thomas described The Sunbathers as “the linked terra-cotta man and woman fly-defying gravity and elegantly hurrying up a W.C. wall”.

In fact, the Sunbathers is made not from terracotta but a composite material invented by the artist himself and called “Peri-crete’ – a type of concrete that was cheaper than…

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