Kossoff and Soutine at the Seaside.


Le valet de chambre, Chaim Soutine, c. 1927. © The Lewis Collection 

There are a couple of months still left for art enthusiasts to get down to Hastings Contemporary to spend quality time with two 20th Century artists of note, one originally from Belarus, the other from Ukraine.

The current exhibition,  ‘Soutine/Kossoff’, juxtaposes the work of Chaim Soutine (1893-1943) with that of  Leo Kossoff (1926 – 2017). 

Soutine left his home for Paris in 1913, where he studied at the Ecole de Beaux Arts, rapidly developing a distinctive Expressionist style.  In addition to landscapes depicting the South of France, the exhibition features several of his characteristic, and often unsettling, portraits of French hospitality workers and other individuals.

Kossoff, a first generation English artist, lived in the City Road, Islington, his parents having fled persecution in Ukraine. He is probably best known for his extraordinarily thickly painted London townscapes, several of which can be seen in Hastings, including Christchurch Spitalfields (1989) and Between Kilburn and Willesden Green, Winter Evening (1991).  Kossoff also produced portraits, including the monumental  Nude on a Red Bed (1972), which is on show in Hastings.  He is known to have discovered Soutine’s work in the 1950’s and to have been much influenced by his direct expressive approach.

Both artists share an Eastern European Jewish background; a heritage that had  produced a number of remarkable creators in exile including the artist, Chagall, and novelist, Isaac Bashevis Singer.  In her outstanding biography of Chagall, (Chagall, Love and Exile,  London, 2008)  Jackie Wullschlager writes of ‘the grinding unchanging poverty of the area from which nearly a million jews emigrated between 1891 and 1910’, bringing with them the influence of its ‘hallucinatory enchantment and age old melancholy.’

This is an absorbing exhibition which is full of interest and intriguing connections. It is likely to delay any art lover for some hours.

Soutine/Kossoff runs at Hastings Contemporary until 24th September.

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