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Ziegler artwork rediscovered after half a century

Published: 13 Oct 2016


On Tuesday 11th October, an original frieze by Jewish artist Archibald Ziegler painted in the early 1930’s has been rediscovered by construction workers renovating Toynbee Hall’s Grade II listed Lecture Hall. The original frieze, which is made up of 9 main panels was unveiled in 1932 to critical national acclaim and was a turning point in Ziegler’s career.

The frieze was found largely in its original hanging above oak panelling, but had been overturned, with the rear painted over in white emulsion and used as hard boarding. They have been resting in the Lecture Hall undetected until now. Although suffering significant physical damage from being re-hung the pictures are relatively well preserved having been hidden from day light for decades. Sadly though we believe one panel of the frieze has been lost due to extensive roof leaks over many years.

Ziegler frieze 1932The discovery was made by construction workers from the construction firm Thomas Sinden, the contractors renovating the Hall’s as part of the extensive restoration and regeneration of the historic Toynbee Hall Estate, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

BBC London News joined us to capture the moment on film as the remaining panels were carefully taken down by construction workers, revealing the paintings that have laid hidden for over half a century.

Ziegler’s paintings that make up the frieze were described at the time as capturing the world’s progress with a focus on the arts and sciences. The subjects include modern transport, astronomy, zoology, exploration, music, dance, sculpture, painting, literature and drama.

Ziegler painting frieze 1932
The paintings will now go into conservation and restoration will be explored depending on whether Toynbee Hall can meet the costs involved. As the regeneration of the Estate is ongoing Toynbee Hall are still trying to secure the remaining £500,000 needed to complete the restoration works.

Find out more about the
Regeneration of the Toynbee Hall Estate.

Here are some of main panels that were discovered which make up Ziegler's Toynbee Hall Frieze:

Scientific research

Ziegler frieze 1932

This painting is the right hand end of the scientific research frieze and shows the skeleton of a mammoth to repressent zoology and biology, ethnology and exploration.

Ziegler frieze 1932

Ziegler frieze 1932

These two panels are the left hand section and centre of the scientic research frieze and illustarte modern transport by land sea and air and also astronomoy. Unfortunately the Modern Transport panel has suffered severe damage over the years.

The arts

The remaining frieze panels all repressent the arts, including folk and morris dancing, music, sculpture, drama, literature and painting.

Ziegler frieze 1932

Ziegler frieze 1932

Ziegler frieze 1932

 “This came as a complete surprise to all of us and really is a momentous discovery. This has been a truly remarkable and emotional day for us all at Toynbee Hall and we greatly look forward to the conservation and restoration of these incredible paintings. It would be wonderful if we are now able to secure funding to conserve them and then return the frieze to its rightful place in the Lecture Hall for generations to be able to enjoy in the future."
Graham Fisher, Chief Executive of Toynbee Hall