The theft of a vanload of Leon Kossoff’s work haunted the painter for 50 years. Now historians hope some might be recovered

Even after he found fame as one of the most important 20th-century British artists, Leon Kossoff never got over the distress of losing 14 paintings and six drawings in an unsolved theft.

A much-loved portrait of his mother was among pictures that were stolen from a lorry transporting them from London to Italy in 1972, with some speculating that the mafia was responsible. Until his death two years ago, he was obsessed with being reunited with them one day, but he never saw them again.

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