To coincide with a major touring retrospective of paintings Leon Kossoff: A Life In Painting currently on show at the gallery in London, Annely Juda Fine Art will feature an exclusive group of Kossoff’s paintings and drawings at Frieze Masters which encapsulate his entire career and include a number of works which have never been shown before.
One of Britain’s most acclaimed painters of modern times, Kossoff is recognised for his highly worked and gestural impasto paintings and his striking and expressive drawings in charcoal, pastel, and graphite. Kossoff grew up in London's East End and the post-war destruction of the City and neighbourhoods so familiar to him became a focus for his work. Sometimes bleak and sombre, but always vital and teeming with activity. Peopled scenes of everyday life in and around where he lived and worked in Kilburn and Willesden pre-occupied his paintings throughout his life. He returned time and time again to observe and capture particular places and buildings including the high street, public buildings, swimming pool, railway bridges, sidings and stations. Kossoff also drew from the life model extensively as a young artist, beginning with evening classes at the Toynbee Hall adult education centre in 1943 and later St. Martins School of Art and most formatively, at Borough Road Polytechnic under the tutelage of David Bomberg.
Alongside his friend and contemporary Frank Auerbach, Kossoff was a key figure in the post-war group of British artists who became known as the ‘School of London’.
“What makes Leon’s works so singular, and indeed so contemporary, is that they give new life to the notion of representational painting,” said exhibition curator and editor of the catalogue raisonné Andrea Rose. “We see in them the interplay between external reality and internal perception freshly achieved. Kossoff doesn’t just perceive the world around him, he regenerates it.”
Kossoff’s career spans sixty years –passionately charting over half a century of urban and industrial change mostly centered in the London neighbourhoods of Dalston, Willesden, Kilburn and Whitechapel. Works at Frieze Masters will include two vibrantly gestural and architectural images of the demoltion of the YMCA building in central London of 1971 and busy peopled scenes including “Booking Hall, Kilburn Underground Station No. 4” of 1978 and “A Street in Willesden no.2” of 1983. Kossoff also extensively painted portraits of his intimate circle; his mother and father, his wife Peggy, writer N.M Seedo, his friend John Lessore, nudes of his faithful sitters Fidelma, Pilar and Cathy and a number of self-portraits. His last paintings before his death in 2019 were dominated by a cherry tree in his own back garden through the seasons. In all these works, Kossoff searches for a way to bring myriad relationships and experiences together, every brushstroke telling the story of it’s making.
The exhibition Leon Kossoff: A Life in Painting continues in London until 4 December and travels to Michell-Innes & Nash, New York and L A Louver, Los Angeles in 2022 and coincides with the publication of Leon Kossoff: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings edited by Andrea Rose and published by Modern Art Press. Additionally, a fully illustrated 120-page exhibition catalogue, titled Leon Kossoff: A Life in Painting, accompanies the retrospective exhibition.