Leon Kossoff

Portrait of Anne


Not on display

Leon Kossoff 1926 – 2019
Oil paint on hardboard
Support: 775 × 580 mm
frame: 990 × 780 × 95 mm
Presented anonymously 1996

Display caption

Kossoff has made drawings and paintings of members of his family and close friends since the beginning of his career in the early 1950s. These images are made direct from life. Through drawing Kossoff seeks a deeper understanding of his subject. For him, drawing is an essential preliminary stage, often lasting many months or longer, to making paintings; the paintings themselves are usually completed in a single session. This painting shows Kossoff's friend Anne.
It is one of a series of portraits of his
wife, his brother and other friends
made in the late - 1980s to mid - 1990s.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Technique and condition

The painting is executed on a single piece of 3mm hardboard which is attached to a five-membered softwood batten frame at its rear. In addition, small triangular pieces of plywood are glued to the rear of this batten construction at all joints to provide additional rigidity to the support. The hardboard was probably primed with a very dilute coating of chalk dispersed in an animal glue. Although this layer is not visible through the paint layers, it is seen all over the rear and sides of the support.

The oil paint would have been very paste-like in consistency during its application and was almost certainly used straight from the tube. The palette is limited to white, black and earth colours, including a prominant red earth, and all the colours are opaque and of a reasonable gloss. The paint was applied in numerous thick layers in an extremely loose manner. A wet-in-wet technique was used in what appears to have been a combination of squeezing the paint directly from the tube onto the panel and its subsequent manipulation by brush (and possibly sometimes also a palette knife). The paint surface is characterised by extremly sharp and high impasto which extends far beyond the edge of the hardboard support and by wrinkling, which is a direct result of painting in such thick layers. This surface wrinkling would have become evident soon after the painting's completion and is characteristic of much of Kossoff's work. In additon to the front of the panel, virtually all of the sides of the battens and various areas on its reverse are covered with paint.

The painting is not varnished or framed. The overall condition of the work is extremely good. The front of the hardboard support is still very flat and the overall construction remains solid. The paint exhibits no cracking or discolouration. However, the paint which overhangs the bottom edge of the panel now appears rather flattened, due to the work resting on these paint layers when it is stored upright (much of the paint beneath the upper skin has not dried completely and is still therefore considerably maleable). The Tate Gallery is currently seeking the artist's consent to frame the work, as this would provide the painting with a far higher level of overall protection, particularly against mechanical abrasion at its edges and corners.

Tom Learner
January 1998


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