Leon Kossoff - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Sunday, June 26, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist in 1989

  • Exhibited

    London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Leon Kossoff, 9 September-8 October 1988

  • Literature

    Leon Kossoff, exh cat., Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, 1988 (illustrated)

    This work will be included in the forthcoming Leon Kossoff Catalogue Raisonné published under the supervision of the artist, by Modern Art Press.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Family is particularly important to Leon Kossoff and prominent throughout his artistic ouevre. Some of his most revered works focus around the subject of family, especially his parents and brother Chaim, who features throughout Kossoff’s six decades, and counting, of works. However, he started to become more prominent after the death of Kossoff’s father in 1983. This was when he became the main subject of Kossoff’s portraiture.

    Kossoff’s ability to capture emotion in a single moment, and then being able to portray it through the long and labour-some task that his style demands, is heightened in these family portraits. The subject of family, the people the artist knows best, enhances this ability and allows the viewer to engage with the intimate emotion of the painting.

    The heavy impasto and the uneven flowing paint we have come to recognise as distinctly ‘Kossoff’, began with the artist’s preoccupation with permanence. Kossoff noticed that the paint on his board had a permanence that both the subject and his gesture of painting could not convey. Wanting to emphasise this property through his process, Kossoff would scrape the paint off the board with a knife before layering it back on several times daily with blotted newspaper. The paint's constant reworking, its constant decay and regeneration, mirrors the changes undergone by the subjects that he has portrayed so many times, so regularly throughout their lives.

    This large scale portrait of Chaim is a superb example of this process. With layer upon layer of heavy impasto applied to the board, Kossoff is able to capture his brother in a sombre, solitary moment. The relaxed pose, head tilted and shoulders slumped, is accentuated by the directional application of these layers, especially as the muted tones create a consistent flow between the background and the subject in the foreground.

    Portrait of Chaim II, 1987 represents Leon Kossoff’s work, not only stylistically but also in regards to one of the most important themes that has been evident throughout his oeuvre, family. Not only does this work portray his brother, but it can also be regarded as a timeline, one of his family and how the years have affected them. A slightly wearier figure than the earlier portraits of Chaim, and one that reminds the viewer of the artist’s father, dressed similarly in a shirt and tie, sitting with his hands across his lap, you cannot help but see the family resemblance through the relatable eye of the artist.

Property From a Distinguished Private British Collection


Portrait of Chaim II

oil on board
101 x 76 cm (39 3/4 x 29 7/8 in.)

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £221,000

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2016