Leon Kossoff

From Constable: Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (plate 2)


Not on display

Leon Kossoff 1926 – 2019
Etching and aquatint on paper
427 × 554 mm
Presented by the artist 2007


This print

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

from the National Gallery. In this case, Kossoff’s inspiration is Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, 1831, by John Constable (1776–1837). P20310 is a unique proof impression that combines etching, softground etching and aquatint, and is printed in black ink on white wove paper.

In this landscape painting, Salisbury Cathedral is seen from the north west, in the distance across a wide bend the River Avon through which a horse-drawn cart is moving. The composition is balanced by an imposing tree on the riverbank to the left. Constable is concerned with capturing the transitional effects of the weather as a storm breaks over the Cathedral. A rainbow arches above the scene.

Tate’s collection includes nine of Kossoff’s prints derived from close study of Constable’s original: P11706–7, acquired in 1999, and P20310–3 and P20318–20, acquired in 2007. Each work is distinct from the other. As curator Colin Wiggins has explained: ‘Each of the many prints taken from the etched and drypointed plates made in front of Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows ... is packed with a different light and energy, enhancing our understanding of the original.’ (Wiggins, p.53.) Kossoff’s concern, it seems, is with structure and with mood. Working in monochrome, he dwells on the effects of light and dark. The composition of P20319 is dominated by the arc shape of the rainbow from Constable’s original, here interpreted as an apparently solid, curving form. Kossoff accentuates areas in shadow to create a more powerful sense of spatial recession than that produced, for example, in the looser and sketchier P20318.

For Kossoff, printmaking is another form of drawing. By studying images by older artists and interpreting them in new ways he bonds more closely with the works and gains a deeper insight into them. He has commented: ‘[M]y attitude to these works has always been to teach myself to draw from them, and, by repeated visits, to try to understand why certain pictures have a transforming effect on my mind.’ (Quoted in Morphet, p.225.)

This work is one of thirty-four unique prints (P20296P20329) given to Tate by the artist in 2007. Kossoff collaborated on the production of the prints with the artist Ann Dowker.

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.
Colin Wiggins, ‘From the National Gallery’, Leon Kossoff: Drawing from Painting, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery, London 2007, pp.47–58.

Alice Sanger
August 2009

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