Kossoff was born in London and studied at St Martin's School of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art, London. Like Frank Auerbach, he was taught by David Bomberg at evening classes from 1950 to 1952. These classes developed Kossoff's practice of intense observation of his subject. In common with Auerbach, Kossoff concentrated on portraits of his family and close friends and, in particular, on London cityscapes. He made numerous drawings of the interiors and exteriors of railway stations in addition to scenes of railway landscapes.