Provenance: LA Louver, Venice CA Simon Lee, London Annely Juda Fine Art, London Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2006
Exhibitions: New York, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Leon Kossoff, 11 April-24 May 2000 London, Annely Juda Fine Art, Leon Kossoff, 1 June-22 July 2000
Literature: Leon Kossoff, exh. cat., Annely Juda Fine Art, London & Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, 2000 p. 100-101 (illustrated)
For Kossoff drawing and painting are a psychological imperative and each picture is a form of catharsis. His occasional artist's statements emphasise this link between what he sees and what he feels in which primacy is given to drawing as a means of engaging with the subject: 'My own work is about bringing out what's inside, letting loose thoughts and feelings.Art is a means of externalising and giving expression to what's inside. It's a means of discoveryThe finished work is important as something new, as something I didn't know I was capable of.' (Leon Kossoff, interview with James Hyman, 27 July 1987) 'It's true certain books seem to burn a hole in my mindpainters mean more than others've talked about theseI know I saw various exhibitions when I was a student, yet even fairly recently, though I did dozens of drawings from theMarsyas, I am unable to see howTitian has influenced me.My life long obsession has been to teach myself to drawonce I start work'art' stays one side of an invisible barrierall works on a much deeper level.' (Leon Kossoff, letter to James Hyman, 10 October 1989).
Kossoff's depiction of London is at the centre of his work, as Kossoff explains: The strange ever changing light, the endless streets and the shuddering feel of the sprawling city lingers in my mind like a faintly glimmering memory of a long forgotten perhaps never experienced childhood,which, if rediscovered and illuminated,would ameliorate the pain of the present. (Leon Kossoff, artist's statement in Leon Kossoff, Fischer FineArt, 1987). These panoramas of the city are, in part, prefigured by paintings byTurner such as Rain,Steam and Speed (1844) Ultimately, however,Kossoff has always been aware that art has its own unique impact and that art historical references and biographical information may distance the viewer from the experience of the artwork: 'When people look at a work they shouldn't spend so much time looking for influences. It avoids fully confronting or responding to what is shown. The viewer must be honest about why a work is moving or profound.' (Leon Kossoff, interview with James Hyman, 27 July 1987).
Leon Kossoff has lived in the city of his birth almost all his life and has become London's most intense and evocative painter. Kossoff once commented that "nothing excites me more than London" and the city remained at the centre of his work. Railways and railway stations recur, but in contrast to the nineteenth and early twentieth century when they signified modernity, they now embody the past. In 1962, for example, Anthony Sampson in his pioneering study, Anatomy of Britain, argued that "the railways are the most embarrassing of all Britain's Victorian leftovers. In the 150 years since they came into being, they have acquired a picturesque, feudal and delightful way of life of their own, presided over by top-hatted station masters in cavernous station halls. Local traditions and loyalties persist... It is difficult to remember that the railways were once as daring as supersonic jets today." In his paintings of London, Leon Kossoff does not merely draw from existing conventions. He reworks them. His vision of renewal does not place faith in the established churches, an interventionist state or faceless bureaucracy. Nor does it celebrate progress, change or modernity. Instead, the artist emphasises the individual, the familiar and the local. He champions hard work and draws attention to the family. Hope lies in the resilience of ancient patterns of local life, local trade and local work. Faith is invested in the material survival of the past and traces of an underlying spirit. This is a personal vision, an affirmative vision, a humanistic vision. Leon Kossoff's achievement is to make something so uncompromising (and so unfashionable) so compelling.