Leon Kossoff

Outside Kilburn Underground


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Leon Kossoff 1926 – 2019
Drypoint, etching and aquatint on paper
Image: 405 × 511 mm
Purchased 1984

Catalogue entry

Leon Kossoff born 1926

P77103 Outside Kilburn Underground 1984

Drypoint, etching and aquatint 405 x 511 (16 x 20 1/8) on wove paper 605 x 641 (23 3/4 x 25 1/4); plate-mark 405 x 511 (16 x 20 1/8); printed by the artist and Anne Dowker and published by Bernard Jacobson Gallery in two editions of 15, one in black and one in brown
Inscribed ‘L Kossoff 84' below image b.r., ‘12/15' below image b.l. and ‘Outside Kilburn Underground' bottom centre
Purchased from Bernard Jacobson Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1984
Lit: Elizabeth Underhill, ‘Outside Kilburn Underground by Leon Kossoff', Print Quarterly, vol.1, Sept. 1984, pp.193-8, fig.100

The following entry has been approved by the artist. Unless otherwise stated, all quotations are the artist's replies to questions posed by the compiler in June 1988.

Kossoff began working on the etching ‘Outside Kilburn Underground' in collaboration with the painter and printmaker, Anne Dowker, in 1979. During the following five years the copper plate was reworked extensively, at Anne Dowker's studio, and the image evolved through an ongoing process of etching, burnishing, scraping down and re-etching. The plate proceeded through fourteen states in all before reaching completion in May 1984 and Kossoff has observed of this long development that ‘even now I don't know why I moved from one state to the next - to deepen the image possibly?' Whatever the reason, a parallel may be perceived between Kossoff's use of etching in this way - whereby the image is gradually realised by alternately building up and then removing etched marks on the plate - and his painting method, in which the image is attained by a lengthy and repeated process of painting the entire image, obliterating it, repainting it and so on until a satisfactory image emerges (see entry on T03680 for a fuller account of Kossoff's painting practices). The final proof was published in two editions of fifteen: one printed in black (to which the Tate's example P77103 belongs) and one in brown. Trial proofs were printed in both black and brown and of the stage proofs in the Tate's collection all, save P02933, are printed in black.

The five stage proofs for P77103 which the Tate owns are the first, fourth, sixth, eleventh and twelfth states and give some idea of the way the image evolved. In the first state the composition is established by means of lines in etching and drypoint which describe the scene in an approximate way. Numerous design changes are evident as revealed by the lightly etched lines beneath or alongside more emphatically drawn areas. For example, in the attitude and anatomy of the figures: the position of the head of the woman in the right hand side foreground has been altered and the legs of the male figure to her left have been shortened. Also notable are the scribbled lines which suggest form or areas of shadow and the many long lines which traverse the picture plane in a non-descriptive way and are reminiscent of the thin strings of paint which criss-cross the surface of many of Kossoff's paintings. In the fourth stage proof aquatint is used for the first time in order to lay down areas of tonality and these are animated by brush strokes of stop-out. In the interim stages more lines were added to strengthen the drawing and these are evident in the fourth state. In the sixth state, parts of areas of aquatint were stopped out so that the overall composition is lighter in tone; at the same time, the drawing was made more emphatic and the hatching denser. The eleventh state was more deeply bitten in some areas in order to reaffirm the design in terms of areas of light and shade and in the twelfth state this has been heightened further by scraping the surface of the plate. The final state (P77103) reverts again to a greater overall tonal lightness. Hence the image was subject to considerable revision during the course of its development, a process which is most clearly evident in Kossoff's treatment of the figures in the composition. Elizabeth Underhill has noted how

the figures, begun with a few strokes to sketch in the composition and to investigate their interrelationship and movement, as the image underwent changes of place, direction and even sex. Though Kossoff did not set out to depict particular people, nevertheless as they developed specific shapes, weight and attitude, the figures became individuals he knows well. The characters, the spaces between them and the tension in their movements became equally important to the final image (Underhill 1984, p.198).

Kossoff has confirmed that the elderly couple in the foreground of ‘Outside Kilburn Underground' are his parents.

The street entrance to Kilburn Underground Station and the view of the booking hall inside the station entrance (see P77052, P02938, P02939, P02940 and P02941) are aspects of a subject which has engaged Kossoff since 1975. Kilburn is a suburb of North West London and the underground station, which is on the Jubilee Line, is five minutes' walk from the artist's home. The artist has commented on this preoccupation as follows: ‘It's near me, it's interesting and I like drawing there'. Although his exploration of the theme has been extensive - variants exist as prints, drawings and paintings - the range of compositional viewpoints employed is limited. In the case of those works which depict the station entrance the view is always that seen from the left hand side of Christchurch Avenue looking towards Kilburn High Road, the skyline being dominated by the large iron bridge, erected in 1914, which spans Kilburn High Road. Similarly, in the booking hall works Kossoff has consistently depicted the interior of the station entrance as it appears when entering from Christchurch Avenue.

In addition to the Tate's etchings, ‘Outside Kilburn Underground' 1984 and ‘Going Home' 1984, Kossoff has made two other editions of prints on the Kilburn Underground Station theme. These are ‘Outside Kilburn Underground' 1982 (etching, 407 x 307, 16 x 12 1/4 on paper 587 x 660, 23 1/8 x 26) printed at Studio Prints and published by Bernard Jacobson Gallery in an edition of 40; and ‘The Booking Hall' 1982 (etching, 184 x 187, 7 1/4 x 7 3/8 on paper 402 x 357, 16 1/8 x 14 1/4), also printed at Studio Prints and published by Bernard Jacobson Gallery in an edition of 100.

The artist has stated ‘I have done many, many drawings of the subject; I couldn't possibly enumerate ...'. Notable examples of drawings of the station entrance include: ‘Kilburn Underground' nos.1-3, all 1975, (all charcoal, 410 x 444, 16 1/8 x 17 3/8; 410 x 590, 16 1/8 x 23 1/4; 530 x 800, 20 7/8 x 3 1/2, respectively, all repr. Leon Kossoff Paintings and Drawings 1974-1979, exh. cat., Fischer Fine Art, 1979, nos 42-4), ‘Outside Kilburn Underground Station No.1' 1976 (charcoal, 590 x 1080, 23 1/4 x 41 1/2, repr. Leon Kossoff Paintings from a Decade 1970-80, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, Oxford 1981, p.7 no.72), ‘Outside Kilburn Underground Station No.2' 1976 (charcoal, 590 x 108, 27 1/4 x 42 1/2, repr. Fischer Fine Art exh. cat. 1979, no.46), ‘Outside Kilburn Underground, for Indian Summer, No.1' 1978 (charcoal, 749 x 1055, 29 1/2 x 41 1/2, repr. ibid., no.58), ‘Outside Kilburn Underground Station (for Indian Summer) No.2', October 1978', (charcoal, 750 x 1054, 29 1/2 x 41 1/2, repr. ibid., p.7 no.73), ‘Outside Kilburn Underground Station No.3' 1978 (charcoal, 590 x 755, 23 1/4 x 29, repr. ibid., no.56), ‘Outside Kilburn Underground Station No.4' 1978 (charcoal, 590 x 785, 23 1/4 x 31, repr. ibid., no.58). Related drawings of the interior of the station include: ‘Booking Hall No.2' 1976 (charcoal, 540 x 670, 21 1/4 x 26 3/8, repr. Oxford exh. cat. 1981, no.71), ‘Entrance, Kilburn Underground V' 1980 (775 x 685, 30 1/2 x 27, repr. Leon Kossoff Recent Drawings, exh. cat., Riverside Studios, 1981 no.18), ‘Inside Kilburn Underground Booking Hall, Summer 1983, No.2' repr. Leon Kossoff Recent Work, exh. cat., Fischer Fine Art, 1984, p.21 no number), and ‘Inside Kilburn Underground Booking Hall, Summer 1983' (charcoal, 577 x 756, 22 3/4 x 29 3/4, repr. ibid., p.45 no number). Both the Tate's etchings were made from preparatory drawings. Kossoff was unable to identify these and has stated that they ‘are somewhere in the mess of my studio ...'.

The paintings which Kossoff has made of Kilburn Underground Station also depict either the entrance to the station or the booking hall inside the entrance. The first paintings of this subject, both of which were executed in 1976, were ‘Outside Kilburn Underground Spring 1976' (repr. Fischer Fine Art exh. cat. 1979, no.7) and ‘Outside Kilburn Underground Summer 1976 (repr. Oxford exh. cat. 1981, p.27 no.20). Both depict the station entrance. Other paintings of this type are: ‘Outside Kilburn Underground Station early Summer 1977' (repr. ibid., p.26 no.22), ‘Outside Kilburn Underground, for Rosalind, Indian Summer 1978' (repr. Fischer Fine Art exh. cat. 1979, no.33) and the artist believes that these are all the works of this type which he has painted. Those paintings which depict the interior of the station include: ‘Booking Hall Kilburn Underground Station No.1' 1976 (repr. Oxford exh. cat. 1981, p.6 no.19), ‘Booking Hall, Kilburn Underground Station No.2' 1977 (repr. ibid., p.24 no.21 in col.), ‘Booking Hall Kilburn Underground Station No.3' 1977, (repr. Fischer Fine Art exh. cat. 1979, no.19), ‘Booking Hall Kilburn Underground Station No.4' 1978 (repr. Fischer Fine Art exh. cat. 1979, no.36).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.397-9


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