Leon Kossoff

From Veronese: The Adoration of the Kings


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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Leon Kossoff born 1926
Etching on paper
552 x 450 mm
Presented by the artist 2007


This print

is one of many works executed by the London-based artist Leon Kossoff in response to paintings

from the National Gallery, in this case, The Adoration of the Kings painted by Paolo Veronese (1528–88) in 1573. Kossoff etched these works in front of the paintings in question and a quality of spontaneity is characteristic of the finished prints. Tate’s collection includes three of the prints related to this painting. They are derived from two different plates and acquired at different times: P11708 was acquired by Tate in 1999; P20314 and P20325 are from a group of thirty-four prints (P20296P20329) given to Tate by the artist in 2007. Kossoff collaborated with the artist Ann Dowker on the production of the prints. P20314 is printed on white wove paper. The edition is not marked.

Veronese’s painting represents the biblical scene of the Three Magi bringing gifts to the newly-born Christ child. In the background, the humble setting of the stable is joined to the ruins of a classical building. A triumphal arch is visible. Angels appear in the sky, along a diagonal ray of divine light that enters the scene from the upper left.

In his interpretations of Veronese’s painting, Kossoff follows the original composition closely, although the image is necessarily reversed as a result of the print-making process. He pays close attention to the imposing architectural elements that Veronese used to organise his scene and to endow it with a grandiose theatricality. The ephemeral shaft of heavenly light in the work by Veronese is a more solid line in Kossoff’s versions, as if to make its structuring function more evident. In the foreground, Kossoff focuses on the dynamic relationship between the figures, and eschews the detail found in the original.

Most of the prints gifted by Kossoff were exhibited, with related drawings, in Leon Kossoff: Drawing from Painting at the National Gallery in 2007.

Further reading:
Richard Kendall, Drawn to Painting: Leon Kossoff Drawings and Prints After Nicolas Poussin, London 2000.
Richard Morphet, Encounters: New Art From Old, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery, London 2000, pp.214–35.
Leon Kossoff: Drawing from Painting, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery, London 2007.

Alice Sanger
August 2009

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