Camden town hall artworks are rediscovered following fears they were destroyed

Naomi Ackerman

Artworks which once hung in a town hall have been rediscovered after disappearing for decades.

A triptych of large panels from the Sixties featuring playful oil paintings of life in Camden were thought to have been destroyed after vanishing from a council storeroom.

However, they turned up years later behind old furniture at a jumble sale in 1998 when they were bought by an anthropologist, who spent years attempting to pin down their origin.

Dr Kaori O’Connor, a research fellow at University College London, stumbled on the 6ft-high works by Cecil Osborne, part of the East London Group, founded in the Twenties by working-class men at a Bethnal Green Men’s Institute art club. The group mainly produced realist paintings and had exhibitions at the Whitechapel Gallery, but were largely forgotten after the Second World War.

The lost artworks were created in the early Sixties to fill an empty space in Camden town hall in Euston Road.

They feature small scenes labelled with comments, such as “The Royal Free Hospital, first to admit that women may become doctors”. Other locations depicted include the newly built Post Office Tower and the now-demolished Euston Arch.

Dr O’Connor, who hung the panels in her Bloomsbury flat for 20 years, told the Standard: “I was astonished when I discovered what these were… they were unframed and it was a miracle someone hadn’t put a foot through them.

“I asked at the time for their story and no one knew.… the only clue was the signature at the bottom of one of the panels: C Osborne 1964.”

She eventually found details about Osborne at Westminster library. Dr O’Connor has given the panels to her daughter, who intends to sell them, while Camden council are investigating if they could be put back on display.