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Leon Kossoff approached the Old Masters in much the same way as he did his more traditional subjects: fervently and with great dedication. The 17th-century painter Nicolas Poussin’s lush rendition of Cephalus and Aurora first caught Kossoff’s eye in the 1960s, and from this transformative moment Kossoff sought out Poussin as an inspiring force throughout his career. He returned again and again to Poussin’s works, as Andrea Rose writes, “searching and watching them, drawing from them in order to hone his skills and to absorb the essentials of composition and construction that makes these old paintings such supreme advisors.” Kossoff made three large paintings of Cephalus and Aurora in 1981. The landscapes appear as agitated as the lovers, the dawn sky glowing on the horizon, the trees inclining in the wind, the figures of Oceanus, Pegasus, Apollo and Terra caught up in the emotional maelstrom that engulfs the protagonists.
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