Sunbathers back after 66 years in the wild

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The Sunbathers at Royal Festival Hall 2017

The Sunbathers were a substantial attraction at the Festival of Britain in 1951 made by Peter Laszlo Peri and the first sculpture to be seen by the crowds arriving at Waterloo tube station for the festival.

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The Sunbathers (and that trashed roundel) in 1951. Source: Crowdfunder

The sculpture was placed on a wall right next to the tube station entrance (along with a massively trashed tube roundel – don’t ask me how that came to be in that state or if it too was intended as a work of art lol.)

A lot of reports say the sculpture was on the north wall of the tube station – that’s not so – it actually faced east.

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When the festival ended after its summer season, most was consigned to the knacker’s yard, save for the Royal Festival Hall. Some of the smaller works of art appear to have ended up in private hands, like The Sunbathers.

As is well documented, they were bought by the family who owned the Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath and displayed in the hotel’s grounds (pic below.) Eventually the special cast concrete (known as peri crete) began to deteriorate so the sunbathers were put to one side and wrapped up safely. They were re-discovered in 2016 and a crowdfunding appeal was begun to restore them.

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The Sunbathers in 2008 before being put away for safekeeping. Source: Blackheath Bugle

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Restoration work on The Sunbathers.

Peter Laszlo Peri started out with constructivism, and during the 1920’s moved to sculptures. He moved to Hampstead just before World War Two. His works became well known after the war and featured on buildings across the country, including Leicester, Coventry and Exeter. Several of his works can be seen on council flats at Fentiman Road estate in Vauxhall.

Now the Festival of Britain sculptures are back on display, sixty six years after their first show. They are at the Royal Festival Hall for a few months until a permanent home is found.

Below are some views of The Sunbathers close up. Its clear the bodies were not meant to be perfect, they were simply artistic expressions, and best seen from directly above or below – exactly how they had been displayed at the festival.

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Close up of the female bather.

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The male bather is not so easy to see, no elevation possible that gives an optimal view of him, hence these two views are the best I could do.

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I like how this shot could represent the bathers on a beach, looking towards an early morning sun in the distance, which is actually one of the ceiling lights in the Royal Festival Hall.

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