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Missing playwright's portrait found in college
A MISSING portrait of the playwright George Bernard Shaw, thought to have been lost during the Second World War, has been found hanging at Ruskin College, Oxford.
It has turned out that the rare painting showing a youthful Shaw had been hanging in a common room at Ruskin’s Walton Street campus for years.
And in an ironic twist, Shaw himself had refused to be associated with the college as he opposed its Oxford location.
The significance of the painting, believed to be worth between £10,000 and £20,000, came to light when college principal Prof Audrey Mullender noticed it last winter, as she was overseeing the college’s move from Walton Street to Headington.
The principal undertook her own research and realised that it probably belonged to the Labour Party and had been lent to the college.
The college will now hand it over to Oxford East’s Labour MP Andrew Smith and next month it will be given a prominent position in the Labour Party’s new headquarters in London.
There are two other paintings belonging to the Labour Party at Ruskin, an adult residential college with strong links to the trade union movement, suggesting there was no room for them at the old Labour headquarters. Prof Mullender said: “We are getting ready to move the headquarters of Ruskin College to our newly refurbished site in Old Headington in September, so I was looking round our Walton Street site to see what we needed to move. I noticed this painting, which has been hanging high up on a wall in a common room for many years. I did some research and became quite excited when it appeared that it might be this lost portrait, commonly known as GBS – The Platform Spellbinder.
“A timely visit from Canada by the President of the International Shaw Society confirmed that I had, indeed, found the missing work.”
When the college, then called Ruskin Hall, was founded in 1899, Shaw refused to be associated with it, because he considered it wrong to turn workmen into school men, or worse still gentlemen.
Prof Mullender said: “This perhaps makes us less sorry to see the painting go.
“Ruskin College is still here in Oxford, over a century later, and we are still changing lives.”