Leon Kossoff

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Leon Kossoff

by Leon Kossoff
oil on board, 1981
16 3/4 in. x 13 in. (424 mm x 330 mm)
Purchased, 1984
Primary Collection
NPG 5772

Sitterback to top

  • Leon Kossoff (1926-2019), Painter and draughtsman. Sitter in 8 portraits, Artist or producer of 1 portrait.

Artistback to top

  • Leon Kossoff (1926-2019), Painter and draughtsman. Artist or producer of 1 portrait, Sitter in 8 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Kossoff made a number of self-portraits throughout his career. The thick impasto used in this painting is typical of Kossoff’s characteristic technique of building an image through an accretion of observations.

Linked publicationsback to top

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  • Rideal, Liz, Insights: Self-portraits, 2005, p. 98 Read entry

    The physicality of paint, built up and moved about on the surface, gives this portrait a palpable presence. The monotone pattern of black and white is stark and uncompromising, suggesting that this is as much a statement about three-dimensional paint style than a matter of producing a recognisable self-portrait. Kossoff’s distinctive style, however, is instantly identifiable.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 359

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1981back to top

Current affairs

Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul's Cathedral. A crowd of 600,000 spectators filled the streets to catch a glimpse of the Royal couple, and 750 million viewers watched the event on television. The iconic moment came when Charles and Diana appeased the crowds by breaking royal protocol and kissing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Art and science

Andrew Lloyd-Webber's musical Cats, based on T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, opens in the West End. The show ran for 21 years.
Brideshead Revisited, the 1945 novel by Evelyn Waugh, is adapted for television by John Mortimer. The lavish production featured an all-star cast of Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom and John Gielgud, setting the bar high for future TV costume dramas.


Pope John Paul II is shot by a Turkish gunman in St Peter's Square in Rome. John Paul was rushed to hospital where he recovered, and Mehmet Ali Agca was caught and sentenced to life imprisonment.
HIV AIDS is identified in five men in Los Angeles.

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