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Drawn to painting
Leon Kossoff prints and drawings after Nicolas Poussin

The Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Dr Brian Kennedy, is pleased to announce the forthcoming exhibition Drawn to Painting: Leon Kossoff prints and drawings after Nicolas Poussin (17 March – 17 June 2001).

Dr Kennedy said: “The Gallery is delighted to present the work of Leon Kossoff, an artist who has engaged critical attention internationally for his sustained commitment to the art of drawing and printing. He has remarked that drawing is ‘an attempt to bring light to paper that is already white’. In the hands of a master like Kossoff, we relish the experience of mark making. This is an exhibition for those who enjoy visual poetry.”

Drawn to Painting consists of 44 etchings and drawings in compressed charcoal, pastel and watercolour. To mark the exhibition of this important body of Kossoff’s recent work at the National Gallery of Australia, a small group of paintings and drawings principally from Australian public collections is also on display. These works cover the period from the 1960s to more recent times.

Leon Kossoff (born London 1926) has recently enjoyed international recognition as a leading British artist. Notably in the mid-1990s he was chosen to represent Britain at the Venice International Biennale, and honoured with a retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London. In addition, the National Gallery in London invited Kossoff to contribute works inspired by the permanent collection to its major exhibition to mark the millennium, Encounters. Previously Kossoff’s intuitive, tactile style and subject matter of urban landscapes and intimate figure studies had been at odds with prevailing developments in modern art.

Kossoff studied art in post war London at St Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art, but found the traditional method of life-class teaching ‘rigid and inhibiting’. During the early 1950s Kossoff also took evening classes at Borough Polytechnic under the tuition of David Bomberg. The experience was a revelation and the young artist developed a comparable method, which combined careful study and analysis of his subject with an improvisatory, intuitive manner.

According to Senior Curator, Jane Kinsman, ‘It was early in his career that Kossoff began to draw from the Old Masters — a practice he has continued to the present day. Although working from great artists is a common practice, Kossoff’s approach differs from that of Picasso, for example, whose interpretation of say a Rembrandt, a Delacroix or a Manet was often more combative and a means by which Picasso could favourably compare himself to the masters of European art. Kossoff instead considered the process, whether in paint, pen or charcoal, as a step in learning how to ‘draw’.’ As the artist himself noted, ‘Every day I awake with the idea that TODAY I MUST TEACH MYSELF TO DRAW. I have also each day to experience the fact that images can only emerge out of chaos.’”

The 1995 painting retrospective of Nicolas Poussin in London inspired Kossoff to create a large group of prints and drawings after the 17th-century master: he was allowed to work in the galleries before opening time over an eight-week period. Poussin’s measured compositions and careful selection of gesture and palette proved an inspiring source material for the contemporary British artist’s intuitive, expressive style. The marriage of Kossoff’s vigorous line and the Baroque artist’s dramatic Classical and Biblical subject matter is clearly evident in the artist’s selection from this body of work which forms the basis of the exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia.

For further information please contact Public Affairs, telephone (02) 62406431, fax (02) 62406561

7 February 2001