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The School of London | Reinventing the Figure

Closed until further notice

Admission free | Advance booking required


All of our Gallery buildings are closed until further notice in line with Scottish Government restrictions.

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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Gallery facilities

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
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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.

  • <b>Closed until further notice</b>
  • <b>Closed until further notice</b>
75 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DR

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

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