Leon KOSSOFF, Christ Church Spitalfields, Summer Enlarge 1 /1


Great Britain born 1926

Christ Church Spitalfields, Summer 1990-93 Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on board

Primary Insc: No inscriptions
Dimensions: 199.5 h x 183.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased with the assistance of Geoff and Vicki Ainsworth 2001
Accession No: NGA 2001.133
Image rights: © Leon Kossoff
  • the artist;
  • from whom bought through LA Louver by the National Gallery of Australia, August 2001

For many years Kossoff has drawn and painted the London that he knows, familiar haunts such as views near his Dalston studio, the Kilburn Underground Station, and Christ Church at Spitalfields, designed by the English Baroque architect Nicholas Hawksmoor and built in the 1720s. During the 1980s and early 1990s Kossoff was fascinated by the Christ Church and explored its potential in a series of drawings and paintings. The motif symbolised for Kossoff the 'London of Blake's Jerusalem', with all its majesty, power and tradition. Christ Church Spitalfields, Summer avoids the overly dramatic. At the same time the artist emphasises the looming building, evoking a sensation of toppling. However powerful in feeling, the painting is balanced in its composition. Figures in the foreground are prominent as they rush to and fro, while a tree stands in the mid-ground.

Kossoff's painting style found in the Spitalfields series, and particularly in this work, is masterly both in the sense of its formal properties and the resolution of the composition. The brushwork, the swirls and trails of paint reveal the painting method of the artist. In this, Christ Church Spitalfields, Summer is both about the act of painting and a particular urban landscape in a particular season. The quality of painting is more accomplished than ever, with a lightness of touch and palette and a greater purity of colour all contributing to the sensation of experiencing London in summer. As with Monet and the Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock artists, Kossoff often seeks to capture the fugitive atmospheric element of a landscape as it changes its appearance because of seasons or the time of day. Reflecting on Christ Church Spitalfields, Summer, Kossoff wrote that it 'is quite different from all the other paintings of the subject. The figures on the pavement are on their way to celebrate a wedding in a near-by public-house. Though it is unlike the Ridley Rd painting, they do relate to one another in a curious way. The earlier being of 'Friday evening', the other of 'Saturday morning'. (I should have mentioned this in the title).'

Jane Kinsman

  1. the artist, in Jed Perl, 'Autumn alphabet: Leon Kossoff', New Criterion, vol.7 no.7, March 1989 pp.51-52, quoted in Moorhouse p.33
  2. letter from Kossoff to the Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Dr Brian Kennedy, 14 November 2001

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra