Leon Kossoff (1926 – 2019) was a British figurative painter known for portraits, life drawings and cityscapes of London. One of Britain’s most acclaimed painters of modern times, Kossoff is recognised for his highly worked and gestural impasto paintings - a technique where paint is laid on an area of the surface thickly, usually thick enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible - and his striking and expressive drawings in charcoal, pastel, and graphite. From the mid-1970s, Kossoff was part of a group of artists that represented a new generation of British art school painters, known as "The School of London".
Kossoff was born in London to Russian Jewish parents. In 1939, he was evacuated with the school to King's Lynn, Norfolk, where he lived with Mr and Mrs R.C. Bishop, who encouraged his interest in art. During this time, Kossoff made his first paintings. When he returned to London in 1943, Kossoff went to Saint Martin's School of Art, and studied commercial art and attended life drawing classes in the evenings. After three years of military service, he returned to the Saint Martin's School of Art in 1949. During this time he met fellow art student Frank Auerbach, who became a lifelong friend and influence. In 1959, Kossoff began to teach at the Regent Street Polytechnic, the Chelsea School of Art, and the Saint Martin's School of Art, all in London. While teaching, he continued his artistic career, and soon started featuring in galleries and shows, along with his friend Frank Auerbach and other artists such as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Keith Critchlow.
Kossoff's style featured heavily reworked paintings and powerful drawings that caught the downcast mood of post-war London. Later works see the artist abandoning his preference for grays and browns before turning towards a lighter color palette in the 1990s. Kossoff created paintings with a near hyperbolic intensity with paint layered so thickly the image buckled under its own weight.