Leon Kossoff

Tate Modern

The vision of London and Londoners in Leon Kossoff’s paintings stems from no identifiable reality. That this vision has, nonetheless, a certain credibility says much for Kossoff’s imaginative transformation of his chosen material. Every recorder of London since William Hogarth has transmitted depictions of the city over his own particular wavelength. Hogarth trained his eye on the urban corruption of innocence, on social arrivisme and the congress of the streets; Gustave Doré showed us Victorian poverty dwelling “in rags and tears”; and Walter Sickert made the darkness of London gleam with the race for survival embodied in tawdry Camden Town vaudeville.

When Kossoff began painting the city of London in the ’50s it was a postwar landscape of ration-book pallor and cavernous bomb sites, a city of excavation and reconstruction. For Kossoff, it has remained that dreary, down-at-heel, wind tossed

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. Please sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW and save up to 65% off the newsstand price for full online access to this issue and our archive.

Order the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.