Seated Nude no. 1
Oil on board
64 by 49 in. 162.6 by 124.5 cm.
Christ Church, Spitalfields, Early Summer
Oil on board
71 3/4 by 48 in. 182.2 x 121.9 cm
King's Cross, March Afternoon
Oil on board
58 1/4 by 78 3/8 in. 148 by 199 cm.
Cherry Tree, Early January
Oil on board
56 by 48 1/4 in. 142.5 by 122.5 cm.
(1926 - 2019, London, United Kingdom)
Born in 1926, Leon Kossoff has been described as one of the greatest British artists of his time. For a little over seventy years, the changing face of London’s urban landscape has been a recurring subject of his work, and he would return to familiar sites such as King’s Cross station, Christ Church at Spitalfields and the neighborhoods of Dalston, Kilburn and Willesden, among others.
Apart from capturing the immediate precincts of his home and studio, Kossoff was also known for his portraits. His subjects were mostly members of his own family, close friends and a small number of models of long acquaintance. These works are deeply moving evocations of the human presence. He was an artist who enjoyed working directly with his material and his paintings are known for their thickly layered, almost sculptural surfaces.
Along with Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach and R.B. Kitaj, Kossoff was part of the group of figurative painters known as the School of London that came to prominence in the 1970s. Kossoff’s work has been included in numerous solo museum exhibitions, including the Museum of Modern Art Oxford (1981); the Tate Gallery, London (1996); the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2000); the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2000); the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2001); the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2000); the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek (2004); the Museum of Art Lucerne (2004); and the National Gallery, London (2007). In 1995, Kossoff was chosen to represent the British Pavilion at the 46th Venice Biennale.
All images © Leon Kossoff Estate.
In Post-war British art radical work tended towards various styles influenced by the modern art of Paris and New York such as Surrealism, abstraction and Pop Art. Alongside these parallel movements there existed another kind of art pioneered by a group of loosely associated artists later labelled The School of London. What they had in common was a firm belief that they could find new ways to create realist paintings and reinvent the representation of the human figure to make it relevant in a world traumatised by the Second World War.
ARTFORUM Summer 2009 Leon Kossoff MITCHELL-INNES & NASH Leon Kossoff's painterliness invites us to scan the image of subconscious meaning—to play on Anton Ehrernzweig's idea of the way we approach what he calls "gestalt-free painting"—and the meaning we find involves what Freud called "primary process thinking," and traces of what D.W. Winnicott, elaborating and deepening Freud's idea, called "primary creativity," by which he meant the spontaneity innate to us all yet often stifled or channeled into trivial pursuits by society.
Leon Kossoff, whose expressionistic portraits and images of urban life made him one of the most important painters of postwar Britain, died on July 4 in London. He was 92.
'It's very private, this relationship with paintings, how they get inside your mind... When you are drawing a painting you see and experience it differently, your mind wakes up.' For most of his life, Leon Kossoff has been coming to London's National Gallery to study and sketch its Old Masters. With some of these drawings about to go on show at Frieze Masters Jackie Wullschlager joins the artist for a tour of his favorite paintings.
"Leon Kossoff has drawn and painted London relentlessly for more than six decades. Today, at 86, he can still be found sketching the street corners that have inspired him throughout his remarkable career. London is "Kossoff's Venice, his city of vista and movement," wrote Andrea Rose in the catalogue for "London Landscapes," a major exhibition that she curated for the artist's four galleries--Annely Juda Fine Art in London, Galerie Lelong in Paris, and Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York, where it is on view November 7 through December 21, before moving on to L..A. Louver in Los Angeles."
Leon Kossoff's love affair with London
All his life, Leon Kossoff has felt compelled to draw and paint his native London. In the nearest that he has ever come to giving an interview, the artist, self-effacing as ever, explains how he has spent decades trying to get it right.
Taking into account the slow, majestic pace at which he works, Leon Kossoff’s new solo show at Annely Juda in London, travelling next year to New York and California, may well be the last in his lifetime. Until Dec 17, www.annelyjudafineart.co.uk; Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, May 5- June 18 2011; LA Louver, Venice, California, Sep 8-Oct 8 2011
Leon Kossoff's painterliness invites us to scan the image for subconscious meaning--to play on Anton Ehrenzweig's idea of the way we approach what he calls "gestalt free painting"--and the meaning we find involves what Freud called "primary process thinking," and traces of what D.W. Winnicott, elaborating and deepening Freud's idea, called "primary creativity," by which he meant the spontaneity innate to us all yet often stifled or channeled into trivial pursuits by society.
For pure cussedness it's hard to beat the London painters who came to prominence in the wake of WWII. A generation younger than the abstract Expressionists artists such as Leon Kossoff, Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud shared with their New York colleagues a sense of existential angst, expressed through an extended process of scraping out and overpainting that reflected their quest to encapsulate intense feeling by sheer insistence.
There is no getting away from the fact that Leon Kossoff's early paintings are deeply weird, "deeply" being the operative word. These works are more like some form of sculptural relief than painting per se – they are certainly as far as you can get, physically and theoretically, from Clement Greenberg's notion (contemporary with these works) of "ineluctable flatness."