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Leon Kossoff (b. 1926)
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Leon Kossoff (b. 1926)

Portrait of Fidelma

Leon Kossoff (b. 1926)
Portrait of Fidelma
oil on board
49 x 31in. (124.5 x 79cm.)
Painted in 1986
Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1996.
Venice, XLVI Biennale Internazionale d'Arte di Venezia, Leon Kossoff Recent Paintings, June-October 1995 (illustrated in colour, p. 67). This exhibition later travelled to Dusseldorf, Kunstverein, December 1995-January 1996 and Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, February-March 1996.
London, Tate Gallery, Leon Kossoff, June-September 1996, no. 69 (illustrated in colour, p. 141).
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, The School of London and Their Friends: the Collection of Elaine and Melvin Merians, October 2000-January 2001, no. 48 (illustrated in colour, p. 93). This exhibition later travelled to Purchase, Neuberger Museum of Art, January-May 2001.
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Lot Essay

'The fabric of my work through the last forty years has been dependent on those people who have sat for me, each one uniquely transforming my space by their presence.' (Leon Kossoff cited in Leon Kossoff, exh. cat. Tate Gallery, London 1996, p. 36)

Fidelma, along with the artist's wife, Rosalind and his father, is Kossoff's most important and regular model. For Kossoff, whose paintings derive directly from the human presence before him, it is the unique physical properties of these sitters, the way in which their bodies occupy and change the space around them that ultimately generates the innate order within his highly spontaneous and intuitive manner of painting. 'I'm always working to make (the painting) more like the sitter,' Kossoff once told Andrew Graham Dixon, 'to make the structure more real, more intense - but in the end, at the final minute, something else happens, something overtakes me in his presence, or in the presence of whoever I'm painting...I stop thinking for better or worse.' (Leon Kossoff in Conversation with Andrew Graham Dixon in The Independent, 16 September 1988, p. 16)

For Kossoff, Fidelma is most often the seated woman. Her body, as in this work from 1986, often seems to articulate a strong architectonic structure - a progression of contrasting vertical and horizontal form at the heart of the composition. It is from this step-like platform created by Fidelma's seated figure that Kossoff intuitively builds his spectacular and fluid, seemingly structureless all-over animated surface of thick splashes, drips and of creamy brushstrokes. Together, these features all combine, through the spontaneous magic of the artist's intuitive response to the living, breathing figure in front of him, to capture something of this life in the material surface of his paintings.

Kossoff paints in such a way, that the path of the artist's struggle to capture the life n front of him is somehow recorded within the paint. The rich engagement between the artist, his materials and the physical presence of the figure in front of him is always manifest. Unlike Auerbach, but more like that of his other great contemporary, Lucian Freud, Kossoff's figures are wrought more through hard scrutiny and an intensity of will than through an ease or facility with paint. It is this fought-out quality to his work that often lends his figure paintings much of their extraordinary physicality and existential power.


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