Bacon and Kossoff | Reinventing the Figure


We are beginning a process of phased reopening starting with the Scottish National Gallery on Monday 17 August and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One) on Monday 24 August.

“Shows the artist’s love affair with human instincts"
The Times

This display brings together a selection of paintings by Francis Bacon and Leon Kossoff that showcase the radical new realism that was forged by both artists throughout their careers.

In the decades following the Second World War, a number of artists based in London reinvented figurative painting in Britain. Although they were later called ‘The School of London’, they were never an official ‘artist group’, but rather strong individuals, who were friends with each other and who rejected the reigning avant-garde styles – abstraction, conceptualism and minimalism – in favour of representational subjects and painterly techniques. Though stylistically diverse, these artists chose to paint the people and places of the city around them with raw energy and angst, depicting the complexities of the human condition and an urban landscape scarred by wartime bombing. The most prominent artists associated with this group of artists were Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Leon Kossoff.

Francis Bacon was born in Dublin to English parents and in the late 1920s spent time in Berlin and Paris before settling in London. It was only after seeing an exhibition of Picasso’s work in Paris that he decided to become a painter. Self-taught, he gained some success as a designer of furniture and rugs. Bacon said that painting only became truly important to him in about 1945, the date that his triptych of the previous year, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (Tate Britain, London) was exhibited in London. This controversial work and the two early paintings in this display helped to launch the artist’s career.

Leon Kossoff was born in London and studied at St Martin’s School of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art, London. He was taught by David Bomberg, a key figure in British figurative art, at evening classes from 1950 to 1952. These classes developed Kossoff’s practice of intense observation of his subject. 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.

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Display accessibility

  • Large print labels
  • Wheelchair access


Gallery facilities

The Changing Places toilet is located in the rear car park of Modern One with accessible parking spaces located nearby. The unit is open 10am-5pm, every day, a key is not required.

A full accessibility guide is available at www.accessibilityguides.org for Modern One and Modern Two.

  • Wheelchair access
  • Changing places toilet
  • Public toilets
  • Disabled parking
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Bike rack

Getting here

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is located 15 minutes’ walk from Princes Street. It includes two buildings, Modern One and Modern Two, set in a beautiful sculpture park.

In addition to the transport options below there are bike racks at each site and Just Eat Cycle Hire stations nearby.

75 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DR

Modern One 10am-5pm daily from Monday 24 August
Modern Two will reopen in the autumn

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