Early years and education
Kossoff was born in Islington, London, and spent most of his early life living there with his Russian-Jewish parents. In 1938, he attended the Hackney Downs School in London. In 1939, he was evacuated with the school to King's Lynn, Norfolk, where he lived with Mr and Mrs R.C. Bishop, who encouraged his interest in art. During this time, Kossoff made his first paintings. When he returned to London in 1943, Kossoff went to Saint Martin's School of Art, and studied commercial art. He also attended life drawing classes in the evenings at Toynbee Hall.
He spent three years in military service with the Royal Fusiliers, attached to the 2nd Battalion Jewish Brigade, and served in Italy, Holland, Belgium and Germany. After his military service, he returned to the Saint Martin’s School of Art in 1949, and at Borough Polytechnic, took special classes under David Bomberg from 1950 to 1952. He was also influenced by another one of his teacher’s students, Frank Auerbach. Both young artists dealt with similar emotions and subject matter in their work, and employed heavy impasto in their paintings. Kossoff chose his subject matter mostly from the area of London where he was born. From 1950–1953, Kossoff's studio was located at Mornington Crescent; he then moved to Bethnal Green, where he lived until 1961. Kossoff studied at the Royal College of Art from 1953–1956.
In 1956, Kossoff joined Helen Lessore’s Beaux Arts Gallery, located on Bruton Place in London. In 1959, Kossoff began to teach at the Regent Street Polytechnic, the Chelsea School of Art, and the Saint Martin's School of Art, all in London. While teaching, he continued his artistic career, and soon started featuring in galleries and shows, along with his friend Frank Auerbach and other artists such as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Keith Critchlow a school friend from Saint Martin's. During this time, Kossoff moved his studio to Willesden Junction, and in 1966, moved his studio to Willesden Green.
In 1995, Kossoff exhibited art the 46th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale and in 1996 was the subject of a Tate Gallery retrospective. In 2007, the National Gallery (London), held an exhibition of Kossoff's work entitled "Leon Kossoff: Drawing from Painting". Kossoff was offered the honour and declined appointment as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. In 2010, Kossoff exhibited a traveling show of new paintings and drawings, beginning at Annely Juda Fine Art, London, then traveling to Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, and ending at L.A. Louver, Los Angeles. In 2013-2014, Kossoff's urban landscapes were shown in a traveling international exhibition, titled "Leon Kossoff: London Landscapes.".
- Leon Kossoff: Drawing from Painting, Studio International, UK.
- McGavin, Harvey (22 December 2003). "Honoured? No thanks, say elite of arts and TV". The Independent. Archived from the original on 20 August 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- "LEON KOSSOFF". Archived from the original on 2010-11-25.
- "Coming home: Leon Kossoff; Leon Kossoff’s urban landscapes are the ‘most enthralling’ exhibition so far this year." By Jackie Wullschlager, May 3, 2013, Financial Times (London)