Portrait of N M Seedo
Medium: Charcoal on paper
Dimensions: 103 x 71 cm
Date: c. 1957
Portrait of NM Seedo was shown in our exhibition Uproar! The First Fifty Years of the London Group, 1913-1963 in 2014. You can buy the catalogue in our online shop.
Leon Kossoff was born in Islington, London, England, to first generation Russian immigrant parents. As a child he lived in the East End of London, where his parents ran a bakery. He studied in London at St Martin’s School of Art from 1949–53, and at the Royal College of Art from 1953–6. Between 1950 and 1952 he also took evening classes at the Borough Polytechnic under David Bomberg.
With his fellow student Frank Auerbach, Kossoff developed a painterly style employing thickly applied layers of paint that are extensively reworked to reveal closely-observed portraits and cityscapes. His works are notable for their autobiographical content, representing close friends and family members, and very familiar parts of the areas of London in which he has lived: the familiarity of his subjects is crucial to Kossoff’s close looking. Recurring motifs in his work include Kilburn Underground station, Christ Church, Spitalfields and Willesden children’s swimming pool.
His paintings can be seen as an extension of his primary practice of drawing. The same direct, heavily worked style is evident in his drawing, Portrait of a Woman, which may depict his wife Rosalind. His etching, Two Seated Figures, takes the artist’s parents as its subjects, and is closely related to a painting of the same name in the Tate collection. A series of etchings produced in response to, and directly in front of, Old Master paintings, reveals Kossoff’s strong sense of artistic tradition. He produced different versions of a single painting in his closely worked, expressionistic linear style, working from Poussin, Titian, Rubens and Rembrandt.
Kossoff had six solo exhibitions at Beaux Arts Gallery, London, between 1957 and 1964, and a further one-man show at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1972. He lives and works in London.