The School of London | Reinventing the Figure

10am-5pm daily

Admission free | Advance booking required


Booking is required and can be made up to four weeks in advance for Modern One and for the first three months of Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema at Modern Two.

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In the decades following the Second World War, certain artists based in London reinvented figurative painting in Britain. Although they were later called ‘The School of London’, they were never an official group, but rather strong individuals who together rejected the dominance of abstract art in favour of representational subjects.

Though stylistically diverse, these artists chose to depict the complexities of the human condition and capture visions of their damaged postwar city with raw energy and angst.

This display brings together paintings by four artists associated with this group, showcasing the radical new Realism that they forged throughout their careers.

Francis Bacon was born in Dublin to English parents and spent time in Berlin and Paris before settling in London. Bacon said that painting only became important to him around 1945, when his controversial triptych of the previous year, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (Tate) was exhibited in London. This room’s 1991 portrait repeats Bacon’s motif of the camera tripod from this triptych, indicating the importance of photography to his working methods across fifty years of painting.

Isabel Rawsthorne was a close friend and collaborator of Bacon’s, and his subject for numerous portraits in the late 1960s. Her paintings were widely admired in London during the 1950s and 1960s; a time when she also designed for ballet and opera productions, and drew ballet dancers from life during their rehearsals.

London-born Leon Kossoff’s practice demanded intense observation of his subject. Kossoff concentrated on portraits of family and friends and London cityscapes, particularly railway scenes. In 1954 German émigré Frank Auerbach took over Kossoff’s Camden Town studio, where he works to this day. His portraits involve multiple regular sittings – sometimes over many years. Auerbach’s densely worked paintings question many assumptions surrounding portraiture as a genre. 

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Event accessibility

Display accessibility

  • 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.

Parking for visitors is available at both Modern One and Modern Two. A donation is requested of £3 for up to 4 hours and £6 for 4-8 hours. Our payment meters have contactless capability.

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

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 until 31 October.
From 1 November: 10am-5pm Thursday-Saturday. Closed Sunday-Wednesday.
Modern Two 10am-5pm daily.

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Book your visit to Modern One

Book your visit to Modern One

We will be limiting the number of visitors in each gallery at any one time. To manage this we've instituted a free, timed ticketing system for both venues.

Admission is free, but tickets must be booked in advance.

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Friends of the Galleries get free unlimited entry to all exhibitions, and enjoy a wide range of exclusive benefits including early exhibition access, special events and 10% discount in our cafes.

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