The Sunbathers by the Hungarian-born artist Peter Laszlo Peri was created for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and greeted visitors to the exhibition at the South Bank as they left Waterloo Station. But the festival was only ever meant to be temporary and after it ended it was thought that many of the sculptures were lost.
However, The Sunbathers was bought by Joseph O’Donnell at auction in the ’50s as a feature for his hotel, The Clarendon, and they resided right here on the patio for many years.
In 2016, Historic England hosted their first exhibition at Somerset House. Out There: Our Post-War Public Art. As well as showcasing sculptural public art, the exhibition also featured a wall of ‘lost works’, including The Sunbathers, in the hope someone may be able to help identify their whereabouts.
A number of visitors to the exhibition recognised Laszlo Peri’s sculpture from the Festival of Britain. But one couple recognised it as the old centrepiece from our garden!
Historic England followed the trail, and in a forgotten corner of our garden they came across The Sunbathers, slightly worse for wear and in need of restoration.
After a successful crowdfunded campaign which raised the target within five days, the sculpture was restored. On 24 August 2020 Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy unveiled The Sunbathers in their new home at Waterloo Station, on the balcony above the concourse and only a few yards away from their original location.
Josephine O’Donnell, daughter of Joseph and our current Chair, said: “The Sunbathers has been in our family since they left their original place at Waterloo station.
“Having brothers who were much older than me, I used to play around The Sunbathers as a small child, calling them my friends Adam and Eve. It is a fine way to continue their story to see them take pride of place at Waterloo.”
Thank you to Network Rail for the photos.
The game of Golf was introduced to England by James I on BlackheathRead more
Excellent service, nice room and parking
5 Star Tripadvisor rating – August 2020
Good location for a short break in London. Safe parking outside. We had a big room with a great view over the Heath. Breakfast was very efficient and good quality.read More