LEON KOSSOFF (1926-2019)
LEON KOSSOFF (1926-2019)
LEON KOSSOFF (1926-2019)
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LEON KOSSOFF (1926-2019)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
LEON KOSSOFF (1926-2019)

Railway Bridge, Mornington Crescent

LEON KOSSOFF (1926-2019)
Railway Bridge, Mornington Crescent
oil on board
40 3⁄8 x 50 3⁄4in. (102.5 x 128.8cm.)
Painted in 1954
Beaux Arts Gallery, London.
Acquired from the above by John Lessore in 1965.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2013.
'Railway Pictures of Leon Kossoff,' in Railway Review, 10 November 1961.
R. Cork 'Leon Kossoff,' in The Times, 18 June 1996, p. 35.
M. Hammer, 'Found in Translation: Chaim Soutine and English Art,' in Modernist Cultures, vol. 5, p. 232, no. 2.
London, Beaux Arts Gallery, Leon Kossof: Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, Lithographs, Etchings, 1957, no. 4.
London, Beaux Arts Gallery, Leon Kossoff, 1961.
London, Beaux Arts Gallery, Leon Kossoff: A Selection of Paintings 1949-1964, 1964, no. 8.
London, Tate Gallery, Leon Kossoff, 1996, pp. 16 and 164, no. 2 (illustrated in colour, p. 46).
London, Piano Nobile, Leon Kossoff: A London Life, 2019, pp. 32, 34 and 127, no. 1 (illustrated in colour, p. 33; detail illustrated in colour, p. 35).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Further details
This work will appear in the Catalogue Raisonne of Leon Kossoff’s Oil Paintings as no. 17 due to be published by Modern Art Press on 30 September. Thanks to Andrea Rose, editor of the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of Leon Kossoff’s Oil Paintings.

Brought to you by

Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Director, Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

Unveiled in Leon Kossoff’s debut solo exhibition at Helen Lessore’s Beaux Arts Gallery in 1957, and later held in the collection of her son John for nearly half a century, Railway Bridge, Mornington Crescent is a rare early example of his London landscapes. Executed in 1954, it eloquently captures his breakthrough as a painter. From near-sculptural layers of thick impasto and warm chiaroscuro, Kossoff charts the sweep of the railway line, illuminated in the semi-darkness as it stretches into the distance. As London began to rebuild itself in the aftermath of the Second World War, the artist drew inspiration from the area surrounding his then-studio in Mornington Crescent, marking the start of a lifelong painterly love affair with the city. Kossoff was particularly fascinated by railways: sites of transition and movement that embodied the passage of life to and from the metropolis. In the present work, like dawn creeping over the horizon, the subject begins to take centre stage: a study is held in Tate, London, where the painting was also shown as part of Kossoff’s major 1996 retrospective.

Kossoff’s relationship with the Beaux Arts Gallery, and with Lessore, was instrumental in the early years of his practice. Helen was an artist herself, having studied at the Slade School of Fine Art during the 1920s. In 1931, she began working as a secretary at the gallery, then run by the sculptor Frederick Lessore. The two married three years later, and Helen became increasingly involved in shaping the gallery’s management and vision, eventually taking it over from her husband following his death in 1951. Beaux Arts was already well-known for championing figurative painters, notably Walter Sickert and the Kitchen Sink School. Under Helen’s leadership, it would help to launch the careers of some of Britain’s most important post-war artists, including Francis Bacon—who exhibited at the gallery in 1953—and Frank Auerbach, who made his debut there shortly before Kossoff in 1956. Helen’s son John, who acquired the present work, was also a painter, and featured in a number of Kossoff’s portraits.

Two years before the present work, Kossoff and Auerbach had completed a set of evening classes with the painter David Bomberg. There, they had been instructed to seek out the ‘spirit in the mass’: to capture the living presence of their subjects, rather than their exact likeness. As the two friends roamed the broken streets of London, they found subjects ripe for this approach—familiar sites emerging slowly from the rubble, gradually flickering with signs of new activity. Auerbach, who took over Kossoff’s studio shortly after the present work, would also repeatedly capture Mornington Crescent and the view of the station. London’s museums and galleries, too, provided a rich source of inspiration: while the National Gallery’s collection of Old Master paintings loomed large, Martin Hammer draws an explicit parallel between the present work and Chaïm Soutine's Landscape at Céret (circa 1920–1921), which he believes both Kossoff and Auerbach would have seen at the Redfern Gallery in 1953. The extraordinary visceral texture of the artist’s impasto certainly seems to owe something to the Russian master’s thick twists of paint: light and life seeps through its dense surface, as if excavated from the very depths of the earth.

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