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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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London

Leon Kossoff
B. 1926
THE TUBE

Provenance

Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1989

Exhibited

Venice, XLVI Venice Biennale, British Pavillion; Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Leon Kossoff: Recent Paintings, June 1995 - March 1996, p. 34, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Tube and railway lines circulate through London as the industrial rhythms of a city which, for Leon Kossoff, formed an allegory for life and movement where “nothing is ever the same” (Leon Kossoff, ‘Nothing is ever the same’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, Venice, XLVI Venice Biennale, Leon Kossoff: Recent Paintings, 1995, p. 25). “The London of my memory is not the real city I live in today… though changing all the time, its particular location – the river, the hills, the proximity to the sea – seems always present, and the millions of people who have spent their lives passing through its streets and travelling along its underground veins make London, like my studio, a place of chaos, providing an opportunity for continual involvement and activity” (Ibid., p. 10). Beginning in the 1950s and continuing throughout his long and prodigious career, Kossoff has repeatedly explored the intimate characteristics of his immediate surroundings and focused his gaze upon the ordinary places that form part of his everyday experience. Continually returning to paint the familiar London scenes around his home, the lively stations, flower stalls, churches and, as so magnificently done in the present work, the North London railway, Kossoff's work is enlivened by a tangible and wholly unique sense of familiarity with its subject, capturing the private face of long-lived experience in an active metropolis. Although he frequently returns to paint the same scene twice, the changing mood, light, and the passage of the seasons, all of which he is so acutely aware, prevent him from wandering into the realms of repetition.

In The Tube, Kossoff’s rich colour palette gives way to viscous eddies of impasto, forms sculpted in paint in which colours glimmer and emerge from within the packed strata of paint. This style of painting was formed alongside an ambitious group of British painters who emerged during the 1950s in London and included Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and, perhaps with greatest affiliation, Frank Auerbach with whom Kossoff studied under David Bomberg at his now famous evening class at the Borough Polytechnic. As critic and curator David Sylvester describes, “There are artists such as Kossoff who persist in trying, as Bacon and as Giacometti did, to pick those threads [of European representational tradition] up, setting out to realise the immemorial ambition to re-create, directly and wholly, the sensation of looking at a head or a figure or tree” (David Sylvester, ‘Against All Odds’ in: Ibid., p. 14). As with Bacon, in the hands of Kossoff the paint is flesh, however for Kossoff the flesh is that of London, and is a flesh that changes with each sitting. Like his contemporaries Kossoff painted that which he knew best; in limiting his subject to the immediate vicinity of his neighbourhood, the anonymous people that passed through these places, and the friends that posed for his portraits, Kossoff transformed the everyday into the extraordinary. Teeming with a remarkable level of perceptual detail, The Tube is a consummate crystallisation of Kossoff's central artistic concern – the transformation of a specific location to a deeply personal and emotive painterly reality.

Contemporary Art Day Auction

|
London