Leon KossoffBacchanal before a Herm (2) 1998

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Artwork details

Leon Kossoff (born 1926)
Bacchanal before a Herm (2)
Date 1998
MediumEtching on paper
Dimensionsimage: 299 x 420 mm
Acquisition Presented by Peter and Liz Goulds 1999
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms


This print is one of many etchings executed by Leon Kossoff in response to, and literally in the presence of, oil paintings by old masters; in this case Bacchanal Before a Herm, 1632-3 (National Gallery, London) by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665). Tate owns two prints by Kossoff after this Poussin painting (Tate P11687-8). The artist’s ability to explore a number of separate responses while making drawings and prints from a single subject is illustrated in these etchings. Tate owns an artist’s proof.

In the Poussin painting Arcadian revellers drink and dance before a herm - a square pillar crowned with a torso and head - of an ancient god, here either Pan or Priapus, both associated with fertility, rustic dance and drunkenness. The dancing figures, despite their frantic activity, have been carefully posed to form a structured, flowing design. Kossoff distilled the principal figures in Poussin’s composition into a spare, linear structure. The delicately etched plate was uniformly inked with a red-brown colour. There is a strong sense of movement in the work engendered by the way the etched marks move around the plate… (read more)

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