Leon Kossoff

From Constable: Stoke-by-Nayland (plate 1)


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Not on display
Leon Kossoff born 1926
Drypoint on paper
446 x 548 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

. In this case, Kossoff’s inspiration is Stoke-by-Nayland, 1836, by John Constable (1776–1837), held by The Art Institute of Chicago. P20309 is in drypoint on white wove paper.

Kossoff made a close study of Constable’s original when it was exhibited at Tate in 1991 (Wiggins, p.56). His practice has been to etch in front of the painting in question and a quality of spontaneity is characteristic of the finished prints. Tate’s collection includes two further prints related to Stoke-by-Nayland: P20308 and P20317. Each of the interpretations is distinct. Writing in 2007, curator Colin Wiggins explained: ‘For Kossoff, the printmaking process is entirely experimental ... there is no definitive or final image. Each pull from the plate functions as an independent expression.’ (Wiggins, p.56.) Kossoff collaborated with the artist Ann Dowker on the production of these prints.

Constable’s painting is a large oil sketch designed in preparation, it seems, for a work that he did not live to execute. In the foreground, at the juncture of two country roads, several rustic figures with horses and a cart are gathered. One road curves to the right through a copse and its tall trees dominate that side of the composition. In the distance to the left is a view of the Suffolk town of the title; the tower of its church is outlined against a cloudy sky.

This print and P20308 are from the same plate. In his studies from Stoke-by-Nayland, Kossoff follows the original composition, which is inevitably reversed through the print-making process. He also responds to Constable’s loose handling with broad, sweeping strokes that seem to capture and heighten the dramatic mood of the original. In P20308–9, Kossoff’s broad, sweeping strokes seem to capture and heighten the dramatic mood of the original.

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. The artist 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. P20309 is not edition marked.

Further reading:
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, reproduced no.35, p.54.
‘The Great Landscapes: Constable: Stoke-by-Nayland 1835–7’, www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/constable/rooms/8-stokebynayland.htm

, accessed 9 September 2009.

Alice Sanger
September 2009

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