There are two painters living in London, both old men, who I consider two of the greatest alive. Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff. They have a lot in common. Both studied under David Bomberg. They were in a circle that included Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, and R. B. Kitaj. They are (especially Auerbach) averse to leaving London, and they obsessively paint particular models and motifs. Below is a picture of Mornington Crescent by Auerbach and one of Christchurch Spitalfields by Kossoff.
They painted these motifs (each his own) over and over and over again. There is a portrait of E.O.W., an early painting, by Auerbach. He painted and drew her hundreds of times. And a portrait of Kossoff’s mother. I added charcoal drawings by each as a comment. Auerbach uses extremely tough arches paper. He works over things so heavily that he inevitably makes holes that have to be patched, which he does as if fixing a flat tyre (sic). Then he keeps going. His studio is a cave of oil paint grunge. Robert Hughes has written a fabulous monograph on him, in which he describes a routine scraping of the linoleum from the studio floor. Kossoff’s drawing is a little less heavy, but not much.
Note that the painters I name above are all London painters who came, or whose families came, from elsewhere in Europe. In a way, London became the Paris of the latter 20th century. It’s where you came to paint—or at least where great painters happened to be. Auerbach was sent to live in London during WWII by his parents who died in the Holocaust.
England has given us Turner and Constable. And these two (who I think far outshine Bacon and Freud). They are all tremendous heroes for carrying the grand tradition in art through the horrors of the post war period. They kept the candle burning.
Please Google images for both of them.
Kossoff Christchurch Spitalfields
Auerbach Mornington Crescent
Kossoff Portrait of Artist's Mother
Auerbach Portrait of E.O.W