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

Here Comes The Diesel, Early Summer

LEON KOSSOFF (1926-2019)
Here Comes The Diesel, Early Summer
oil on board
54 ¼ x 48in. (137.5 x 122cm.)
Painted in 1987
Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London.
Saatchi Collection, London.
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s London, 2 December 1993, lot 45.
Private Collection, Scotland.
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s London, 23 June 2004, lot 7.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
A. Hicks, New British Art in the Saatchi Collection, London 1989, p. 71, no. 62 (illustrated in colour).
R. Cork, 'City of the Heart', in The Times, 27 May 1995.
D. Sylvester, Leon Kossoff: Werke 19861994, Dusseldorf 1995 (illustrated in colour, p. 22; titled 'Here Comes the Diesel').
D. Cohen, ‘Kossof’s Doubt’, in Art in America, December 1995, p. 70 (illustrated in colour, p. 67).
J. Hyman, ‘Leon Kossoff’, in Tate Magazine, Summer 1996 (illustrated in colour, p. 25).
C. Rendell, 'Leon Kossoff', in Contemporary Art, vol. 3, no. 4, Summer 1996, p. 74 (illustrated in colour, p. 73).
A. Rose (ed.), Leon Kossoff: London Landscapes, exh. cat., London, Annely Juda Fine Art, 2013-2014 (illustrated in colour, p. 23).
A. Dempsey, L. Norman and J. Wullschlager (eds.), Leon Kossoff: A London Life, exh. cat., London, Piano Nobile, 2019, p. 8.
London, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, Leon Kossoff, 1988 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Glasgow, McLellan Galleries, Glasgow’s Great British Art Exhibition, 1990, p. 90 (illustrated in colour, p. 91; titled ‘Here Comes the Diesel’ and dated ‘1988’).
Venice, XLVI Venice Biennale, British Pavilion, Leon Kossoff: Recent Paintings, 1995-1996, pp. 32 and 79 (illustrated in colour, p. 33). This exhibition later travelled to Dusseldorf, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen and Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum.
London, Tate Gallery, Leon Kossoff, 1996, p. 166, no. 66 (illustrated in colour, p. 121).
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Further details
Thanks to Andrea Rose, editor of the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of Leon Kossoff’s Paintings, due to be published by Modern Art Press in Summer 2021.

Brought to you by

Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Director, Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

Originally part of the Saatchi Collection, Here Comes the Diesel, Early Summer is an outstanding work dating from one of the most extraordinary periods of Leon Kossoff’s career. Shown at the 1995 Venice Biennale, and included in the artist’s solo exhibition at the Tate Gallery the following year, it captures the intuitive, visceral energy that came to the fore in his works of the mid-1980s. From thick strands of impasto, a yellow-faced diesel locomotive billows into being, bathed in warm summer light. Incisions, peaks and troughs dapple the surface of the work, infused—like the train—with a palpable sense of motion. The painting belongs to a series depicting the railway in Kossoff’s beloved North London at different times of the day and year. At the time of its unveiling, the work was the subject of an essay by the celebrated critic Lawrence Gowing, who compared the artist’s efforts to those of John Constable. With the same intensity that the latter trained his gaze upon the banks of the River Stour, Kossoff registers the sheer joy of standing witness to a particular time and place, articulating—with every immediate stroke—the raw sensation of being alive.

From his upbringing in Shoreditch, to the Willesden Green studio he inhabited for over half a century, Kossoff lived and breathed London. In the aftermath of the Second World War, he and his artistic comrade Frank Auerbach began to document the city as it returned to life, capturing the unstudied corners of their local neighbourhoods. It was a project that would consume Kossoff for the rest of his life. As well as inviting comparison with Constable, the artist’s approach equally evokes that of Claude Monet, who similarly returned to his subjects—including train stations—across the changing seasons. By the mid- to late-1980s, writes Anne Seymour, Kossoff was producing ‘some of the most exciting pictures of his life’, defined by their blend of gravitas and raw painterly freedom (A. Seymour, Leon Kossoff, exh. cat., Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London 1988, unpaged). With its image of liberation, progress and power, the present work is a fitting metaphor for this thrilling period: the culmination of a journey that began, and ended, with the world outside the artist’s window.


Here Comes the Diesel
By Lawrence Gowing

Catching the light and perhaps a breath of wind, this landscape shines with the freshness of the real country. As we watch, a train with a yellow front comes casually across the picture with that slightly juddering motion, that loudness we know from childhood, reaching as we register its arrival the exact centre of the canvas. The ochre-yellow front of the train, of a colour that appears nowhere else, gathers to itself all the attention that has been given to any part of the picture. Perhaps it is the line called the Metropolitan which triumphantly bestrode the capital. The fence from which we watch is at the top of a slope that runs steeply down to the twin tracks of the railway. Beyond them another bank, like the further bank of a river, has a lustre quite distinct from the shaded herbage on our side. One could more easily believe that the light shone so coolly beside the old London North Eastern, if not on the bank of the Suffolk Stour itself, the river that freshened painting for the whole of modern art. Caught up by the morning light, that further bank generates the real colours of nature, yellowish green where the light shines through the grasses and cold white where, bent by the wind or swayed by the breezy locomotion, the grasses reflect the cool glare of the sky. The bushes at the top of the bank collect pools of shadow under them, which outline the curve of the hills and convince us suddenly how direct and clear the shape and the colours of nature really are.

Among them stand two poplar trees, blown a little but twisted as much by the current of the painter’s perception and the movement of his hand. They spiral like cypresses; we could almost be in the emotional world of post-impressionist Provence. But the feeling here is the intense feeling of industrial North London. We share Kossoff’s own sense of community, not only enraptured by the railway but equally spellbound in the streets. If your childhood was spent in North London, watching the London North Eastern go by, as mine was, you feel it acutely.

Beyond the trees in the picture of the Diesel, against the sky, we look up at familiar red brick. It is a row of warehouses or simply houses; they complete the space and solidly enclose it; they crown the hill like a temple. Except that between the trees there is a crevice full of air and light. The brightness of the sky filters down between them, measuring the space in which they stand.

We cannot fail to follow these movements because the paint portrays them for us. The loaded brush must have passed repeatedly up and down the picture, renewing the brightness of the sky, then gesturing in the air the S-bend of the twisted trees and the firmness of the fence-posts. On the way back from the sky as often as not a trail of white of sky colour has trickled behind the brush. Wherever it falls it leaves light, a lucent commentary on the graphic movement, an involuntary deposit of the brightness that makes the picture.

I know nothing quite like this in current painting, this confessional network of the chances that betray how a painter gave himself to his image. In this picture of the Diesel, the random yet rapturous traces have something of the character of what Constable called his dew. Following it, sharing a naïve excitement and the happiness of a much drawn place, we are aware that we have been taught, as Constable taught, ‘the language of the heart’.

First published in the catalogue for the exhibition Leon Kossoff at Anthony dOffay Gallery, London 1988.

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