Page last updated at 13:56 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 14:56 UK

Artist reunited with golden hare

By Torin Douglas
Media correspondent, BBC News

Kit Williams with the jewelled golden hare
Kit Williams shunned the limelight after the success of Masquerade

The artist who set off a national treasure hunt 30 years ago by burying a jewelled golden hare in a park in Bedfordshire has been reunited with it.

Kit Williams, who created the hare in 1979 for picture book Masquerade, had not seen it for more than 20 years.

Its beautiful illustrations contained visual clues to the treasure's whereabouts and it became a bestseller.

The hare was found in 1982 before being sold at a Sotheby's auction to an anonymous overseas buyer for £31,900.

The jewelled hare
I had not remembered it being as delicate as it is
Kit Williams

Mr Williams never found out who had bought it and thought he would never see it again.

Last month, the owner's granddaughter heard a programme on Radio 4 appealing to anyone who knew the hare's whereabouts to come forward.

She was put in touch with a team making a TV documentary on Mr Williams for BBC Four, who arranged for it to be flown to Britain this week.

Today Mr Williams said the reunion had been very emotional.

"I had not remembered it being as delicate as it is," he said.

"Then when I picked it up the little bells jingled, and it sparkled in a way that I had forgotten as well."

Mr Williams has shunned the limelight for almost 30 years, since Masquerade catapulted him into the public eye.

He felt his artistic credibility was damaged by the book - which was translated into eight languages - halting a promising career as a painter.

Since then he has quietly made a living with his paintings, some of which have recently gone on display in London.

After Masquerade was published, thousands of people tried to solve the puzzle, digging up lawns and parks around Britain.

Mr Williams's work is reappraised in the documentary, The Man Behind the Masquerade, to be shown on BBC Four next month.

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