Leon Kossoff b. 1926


With Fischer Fine Art, London
Howard M. Caspar, USA
Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, London
Private Collection, USA, 2007
Private Collection, Europe


2019, London, Piano Nobile, Leon Kossoff: A London Life, 1 March - 22 May 2019, cat. no. 12


Andrew Dempsey, Lulu Norman and Jackie Wullschlager, Leon Kossoff: A London Life, Piano Nobile, 2019, pp. 64-5 (col. illus.)
This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Leon Kossoff's oil paintings:
Andrea Rose, ed., Leon Kossoff: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Modern Art Press
Dalston Lane, Summer is a large and important painting of London from the nineteen-seventies. Kossoff has long been fascinated with the dirt and atmosphere of his city, and this work depicts a lowering sky with the sharp colours of high summer – the luscious green railway bank and the glowing rust red of the bridge. The painting has rich material qualities owing to the artist’s use of Stokes painting, a glutinous and full-bodied industrial paint known for its high content of linseed oil. The thickness of this paint allowed Kossoff to apply it, manipulate it and scrape it away, and it is by this rhythmic activity that his works are constructed. The powerful, masticated surface of Dalston Lane, Summer is also indebted to the process of drying. As the paint dried out, losing some of its oil content, Kossoff’s brushstrokes bunched together a little in gentle creases, resulting in this characteristically raw, open-grained finish. This process of drying-out is central to the artist’s distinctive style, and this work is exemplary in drawing together a cityscape subject with Kossoff’s somatic, powerfully-wrought surface.

Kossoff made this work in his studio at Dalston which he used between 1972 and 1975. It depicts the railway line, visible from that studio, which runs between Canonbury and Hackney. A photograph reproduced in the 1981 exhibition catalogue, Leon Kossoff: Paintings from a Decade 1970-1980, shows a view closely similar to that shown in this painting. While slightly earlier cityscapes, from 1972 and 1973, show Dalston Junction and the German Hospital, it was in 1974 that Kossoff started painting Dalston Lane itself. A comparable example to Dalston Lane, Summer is Dalston Lane, Summer Day No. 1 (1975, Government Art Collection), which also pictures a church spire near the horizon – the Faith Tabernacle Church of God, Dalston, previously the Hamburg Lutheran Church, on Ritson Road. Like Kossoff’s studio at the time, the church is situated close-by the overground railway line.

Dalston itself was close to the artist’s old school, Hackney Downs’ School. Throughout Kossoff’s career there has been a tension between remembering the past and experiencing the present. He perennially returns to familiar subjects with which he was once closely acquainted. In the same year as he executed Dalston Lane, Summer, Kossoff wrote about how the city felt like a place caught between recollection and present-day reality. ‘The strange ever changing light, the endless streets and the shuddering feel of the sprawling city lingers in my mind like a faintly glimmering memory of a long forgotten, perhaps never experienced childhood’.