In 1936, at the age of ten, Leon Kossoff found his way from Hackney to the steps of the National Gallery. At first, never having seen a painting before, he was awestruck. Later, he said, 'It seemed as though all the streets of London led there.'
The paintings were removed during the war, though there were momentary sightings of works which, together with the concerts of Myra Hess, brought comfort to the people of war-torn London.
After military service, Kossoff became a more frequent visitor as an art student and started to draw seriously. In the late 1980s he began printmaking, bringing the plates to the National Gallery, and drawing on them directly in front of the paintings. During this time, he also drew and made prints at the exhibitions at the Royal Academy devoted to the art of Venice, Poussin, early Cézanne, and Goya. Some of these drawings are on show.
In 1998 and 1999, Kossoff painted two studies in the studio from his drawings of 'Cephalus and Aurora' by Poussin and Rembrandt's 'Ecce Homo', both of which are in the exhibition.