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Getty Exhibits New Work By Acclaimed British Artist Leon Kossoff

Poussin Landscapes by Leon Kossoff
January 18 through April 16, 2000

November 23, 1999

LOS ANGELES--An exhibition opening January 18, 2000 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Poussin Landscapes by Leon Kossoff, includes a group of compelling new works on paper. They result from a long engagement by the British painter Leon Kossoff with the work of the great 17th-century French painter Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665). On view through April 16, 2000, the exhibition is about one artist's struggle to understand and translate the essential qualities of another artist's work--from its color and composition to its emotional content.

The 73-year-old Kossoff (born in London, 1926) is a painter and draftsman whose career spans 45 years. A member of the so-called "School of London," which includes Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, and Lucien Freud, Kossoff represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1995. In 1996, he was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Tate Gallery. Kossoff is acclaimed for his powerfully expressive, thickly painted scenes of London life and portraits of his family and friends. Throughout his career he has been making free copies after Old Master paintings. Like many artists, Kossoff turned to the great painters of the past for discipline, understanding, and inspiration.

In the 1950s, Kossoff became interested in and challenged by the work of Nicolas Poussin, who is considered the most important French artist of his age. In 1995 at the great Poussin exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Kossoff's fascination was re-ignited, and during the show he made a series of prints and drawings inspired by Poussin's figural compositions. These are so impressive that last year the Getty Museum invited Kossoff to work from its newly acquired Poussin, Landscape with a Calm, and took the unusual step of lending the painting for several months to the National Gallery in London where Kossoff could draw and etch after hours.

The Getty exhibition brings together two Poussin landscape paintings--one from the Getty Museum and the other from the National Gallery in London--with the prints and drawings Kossoff created in response to them. The highlight will be ten of Kossoff's charcoal-and-pastel drawings and etchings inspired by Landscape with a Calm.

The exhibition will also include seven of Kossoff's etchings and charcoal-and-pastel drawings made from the National Gallery's Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake. Kossoff, whose natural bent is for complex figure groups with strong emotional content, had been temporarily frustrated by the serene Getty picture when he first began to work. He turned instead to this more turbulent painting, which was hanging nearby, and made a series of free copies. The painting will be on loan from the National Gallery to the Getty for this exhibition. John Walsh, director of the Getty Museum and organizer of the exhibition, said, "Kossoff manages to translate Poussin's radiant landscapes into his personal language of impulsive gestures and simplified forms. He honors Poussin and, at the same time, he makes a fresh and independent body of new work. Like Degas and Picasso, he's never been too proud--even now, as a world-famous artist himself--to copy and struggle and learn."

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has organized a complementary exhibition, Drawn to Painting: Leon Kossoff's Drawings and Prints after Nicolas Poussin. Including a variety of works from Kossoff's recent series, it is on view from January 20 through April 2, 2000. Together, these exhibitions provide remarkable insight into a relationship across more than three centuries between two artists whose work, on the surface, could not be more different.

The material in both exhibitions is the focus of a richly illustrated new book by Richard Kendall, Leon Kossoff: Drawings and Prints from Nicolas Poussin (Merrell Holberton, London, 1999, cloth $35.00).

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The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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