Artwork from the dark days of London’s gangster world

Paul Lake's portrait of the Krays nBx5GDdXtYbtLnkCGzJW
Paul Lake's portrait of the Krays nBx5GDdXtYbtLnkCGzJW

Next week sees a unique exhibition open to the public at the Lily Clifford Gallery which highlights the most notorious of characters from the London gangster era.

The Grim Years opens on Sunday April 17 and runs until April 27. A private view will be held on Saturday and is invitation only.

Twin gangsters Ronald and Ronald Kray were inspired by David Bailey’s iconic early 1960’s photograph - so much that they commissioned their friend Paul Lake to do a painting. This painting became their favourite image of themselves – and it is now being exhibited the gallery in South Street as part of ‘The Grim Years’ exhibition.

Gallery owner Lily Clifford said: “Among the many unique paintings featured at this exhibition is the original Paul Lake painting of the Kray twins. The history which comes with the painting, includes a bullet hole and knife slashing, so if a painting could talk, it would probably tell a fine tale of witnessing, a bit more than can be put in polite language. The original painting went missing for many years, but has now emerged from its exile having been carefully been restored – bullet hole covered – to its former glory.”

The Kray brothers named the painting Down But Not Out to help raise awareness of Reggie’s plight in prison, and approved the production of 200 limited edition prints of the painting.

The exhibition also features original paintings by both Reggie and Ronnie – exhibited for the first time in public. Also featured are paintings by David Fraser – son of ‘mad’ Frankie Fraser, as well as paintings by artist Mick Conner. Both capture the raw spirit and the insight of savagery associated with the underworld.

Everyone is welcome to drop by and experience the art from one of the darkets periods of London’s black and sinister gangster world – which has “a surprising, and touching, element of painting and lasting artworks” according to Lily. The gallery is open on Sunday from 10.30-2.30 pm, and on Tuesdays – Saturdays from 10-6.30pm.