Leon Kossoff

Demolition of the Old House, Dalston Junction, Summer 1974


Not on display

Leon Kossoff 1926 – 2019
Oil paint on board
Support: 1600 × 2184 mm
Purchased 1975

Catalogue entry


Not inscribed

Oil on board, 84 1/2×63 (210.5×160)
Purchased from Fischer Fine Art Ltd (Grant-in-Aid) 1975
Exh: Leon Kossoff, Claude Rogers, Recent Paintings and Drawings, Fischer Fine Art Ltd, July–August 1975 (no catalogue)

The information for this note was supplied by the artist in letters to the compiler of 4 September and 16 November 1975.

This picture depicts a view from the artist's studio in Dalston Lane, London E8 which he took in December 1971, initially with some ex-students to draw from the model and from the windows. The view is towards Canonbury. Ridley Road is on the right and the railway on the left is the Richmond-Broad Street Line. (The other window in the studio looks in the opposite direction, towards Hackney). Kossoff has a special association with the Dalston district where he grew up and went to school, though not in the immediate vicinity of the studio. The main reason he has worked there is because of the opportunity the views provided.

The artist wrote: 'I started work from the subject in January 1972. I drew a great deal in Dalston and in my studio in Chatsworth Road, [London NW2]. I began work on three large boards. I finished one painting in November 1972 (“Dalston Junction with Ridley Road street market, Friday evening”). The second painting was finished in 1973 (“Dalston Junction with Ridley Road street market and salmon curer's yard, Friday morning”) and the third (T01984) was finished in September 1974.

‘Of course, I did not work on all the boards all the time although I kept them all going until I found I was working on one board more than the others and I eventually finished the first paint’. T01984, in comparison with the other two, is painted in brighter, more vivid contrasting colours for which at first the artist had no special explanation, but in his letter he continues: ‘In the case of the third picture I worked on the idea of Dalston Junction on a bright day for most of the time, but it was only in July 1974, when demolition of the roof began, that I did some more drawings and finished the painting in September’.

In his second letter the artist discussed the relationship between the painting and drawings that he makes of the motif. 'All the time I am working on a landscape in the studio I am referring to the drawings I constantly do from the subject. I pin the drawings on the wall of the studio and change them frequently in the course of the time I am working on the painting. In the case of T01984 I have two very early drawings which I kept on the wall most of the time I was working on the subject. There are also two gouaches which I did just before I finished the painting'.

The artist pointed out that the brighter palette of the painting was apparent in the preliminary drawings and is not something to be consciously maintained in subsequent paintings: ‘each new painting is starting again, new ideas, new problems’.

About the painting process itself he wrote: ‘My work procedures are straightforward. I mix fresh oil paint everyday in large tins, I use brushes. Everyday I work over the whole board, I usually scrape off the previous day's work. Occasionally, when I am not sure, I let a board dry out and work on it later. I never work on bits. Either a whole structure emerges or I start again. I don't know why the paint goes on the way it does, but I do know that, if I think about it, I might as well scrape off and begin again’.

In conversation with the compiler in August 1975, Kossoff stated that in the case of T01984 he had been away for a week and on his return scraped down the entire board and repainted it ‘in ten minutes’.

‘The old house’ the artist wrote, 'could possibly have been an early Victorian Cottage ... only the top floor and roof were demolished at that time. The painting shows the beams after the slates were removed. The roof of the old house is shown in a number of gouaches and drawings...

‘I haven't done many demolition paintings, only three or four. [“Demolition, Caledonian Road” 1969, “Demolition of YMCA Building, London” 1971]. I have worked in and from London all my life and demolitions, like building sites and railways, are part of the London I know’.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978

You might like

In the shop