The Easel

9th November 2021

Leon Kossoff’s Art of Darkness and Light

An appreciation. Kossoff lived his adult life in the same part of North London. In contrast to the great English tradition of painting rural landscapes, his fascination lay with what was outside his suburban front door. London’s grimy vistas and overcast skies were his main subject and he captured them with a “slow turbulence” of paint. Kossoff painted many such works, likened by one critic to a man “making a map of locations where he can begin to search for himself”.

Late Constable, Royal Academy, London, review: sentimental or experimental? Both, actually

Some regard Constable as a “chocolate box artist”, conventional and well mannered. Undoubtedly, he helped advance the status of landscape painting. His fidelity to nature has its admirers, even if our times perhaps inclines toward the wilder imagination of his contemporary, JMW Turner. In late career, Constable’s style became looser, especially his oil sketches. They impress this critic: “For those of us brought up on a diet of Modernism these works are very appealing.”

2nd November 2021

Appetite and decay: the animal instincts in Bacon’s paintings

Kafka wrote about a man who becomes an insect. Bacon was interested in similar territory, “the gap between the clothed human and the snarling figure hidden within the clothes”. Sometimes his man-creatures are on all fours, animality coupled with “a sort of suffering dignity … Their wildness includes a sense that they are in possession not merely of instinct but dark knowledge. Their quest is not only for food or blood but something unnameable and unobtainable.”