Skip to main content
Select Source:

Kitaj, R. B.

R. B. Kitaj: (Ronald Brooks Kitaj) (kĬtī´), 1932–2007, American painter, b. Chagrin Falls, Ohio. In 1958 he moved to London, where he attended the Ruskin School, Oxford, and the Royal College of Art, London, and became more closely associated with British rather than American painting. Kitaj, his friend David Hockney, and several other artists were involved with the beginnings of the pop art movement in Britain. In his early work Kitaj frequently blended pop collage methods with brushstrokes resembling those of abstract expressionism. Kitaj's often sexually charged paintings are grounded in exquisite figurative drawing, their smooth surfaces splashed with areas of bright color and covered with collagelike intersecting and interlapping planes, people, and objects. His strong intellectual interests, including surrealism, art and political history, literature, Jewish history, and Jewish identity, are themes that run through his work. His paintings of the late 1980s and 1990s (e.g., The Wedding, 1989–90, Tate Gallery) took on a more personal cast. In 1997 he returned to the United States and settled in Los Angeles.

See his First Diasporist Manifesto (1989) and Second Diasporist Manifesto (2007); J. Rios, Kitaj: Pictures and Conversations (1997); studies by M. Livingstone (1999), J. Aulich and J. Lynch (2000), and A. Lambirth (2004).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kitaj, R. B.." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Kitaj, R. B.." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kitaj-r-b

"Kitaj, R. B.." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kitaj-r-b

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Kitaj, R.B.

Kitaj, R.B. ( Ronald Brooks) (1932– ) British painter, b. USA. An individualist, he has loose links with the pop art movement. Kitaj paints in flat, soft-edged areas of bright colour, often on very large canvasses.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kitaj, R.B.." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Kitaj, R.B.." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kitaj-rb

"Kitaj, R.B.." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kitaj-rb

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Kitaj, R. B.

Kitaj, R. B.

Born Ronald Brooks, October 29, 1932, in Cleveland, OH; died of possible suicide, October 21, 2007, in Los Angeles, CA. Painter. With work known as much for the controversy surrounding it as for its innovations, R. B. Kitaj was an inarguably influential artist. Though Kitaj was American, his work is best known in Britain, where he was often grouped with the developers of the Pop Art movement. Through use of collage, figurative painting, and text in tandem with his painting, he developed a style and body of work viewed as significant contributions to the art world, with some critics considering him one of the earliest practitioners of Postmodernism.

Kitaj received many honors for his work, including being elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the Royal Academy of Arts in London. He was also one of the few Americans to be the subject of a retrospective exhibit at the Tate Gallery in London. Despite these accolades, Kitaj was often critically reviewed, and many considered his reference to literature in many of his works to be pretensions. To these criticisms, according to the London Times, Kitaj responded, “some books have pictures and some pictures have books.”

Born in Cleveland, Kitaj (pronounced kit-EYE) was only two years old when his father abandoned his family. His stepfather became a dominant influence in his life, and Kitaj took on his stepfather’s last name. Both his mother and stepfather were non-observant Jews, a cultural identity that would become vital to Kitaj’s later work. Kitaj was interested in art at an early age, and used his talents throughout his life, drawing local figures and prostitutes on his travels as a merchant seaman, and becoming an illustrator for military publications when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1955.

His time in the military allowed him to utilize the G.I. Bill and attend art schools in Europe. In addition to studying in Vienna and Oxford, Kitaj was accepted into the Royal College of Art. There he was a classmate to David Hockney, Allen Jones, Derek Boshier, and Peter Phillips, who were well known figures in the British Pop Art movement of the 1960s.

Kitaj did not identify himself with the Pop Art movement, however. Despite his friendship with many of the artists of that movement and some of his own stylistic similarities, he instead grouped himself with earlier artists, including Cézanne and Picasso, or contemporaries including Francis Bacon and Jewish artist Lucian Freud. Kitaj’s first solo exhibition premiered in 1963 at the Marlborough New London Gallery. Going against the 1960s and ’70s trend toward abstraction, Kitaj put “the subject back into painting,” according to critic John Russel, as quoted in the Los Angeles Times. Kitaj’s style evoked an earlier era while also making his work relevant to a modern audience. “He took the major impulses of our time—printed word and moving image—and brought them alive with a sense of history and context that gave additional meaning to his paintings,” critic Peter Goulds wrote of a later exhibition in the Los Angeles Times.

Working with a variety of different formats, including collage and silk screen, Kitaj eventually turned to drawing as his dominant form of expression, disowning his earlier work as too simplistic. His 1976 exhibition, “The Human Clay,” further embraced his commitment to figurative painting rather than abstraction, drawing unkind words from the avant-garde art community. The exhibition was influential, but it was only one of many that received harsh reviews from critics. He was again criticized for his drawings in a 1980 exhibit, and lambasted for his exhibition at the Tate Gallery retrospective in 1994.

By the time of his Tate retrospective, Kitaj had become dedicated to exploring his Jewish identity. Much of his work from the late ’70s featured a Jewish every-man, and in addition to his art, he published two manifestos about what it meant to be a Diasporist. He was quoted in the New York Times as having said, “I’ve got Jew on the Brain. Jews are my Tahiti, my Giverny, my Dada, my String Theory, my Lost Horizon.” Typical of Kitaj, this statement referenced the work of a writer: Philip Roth.

The work featured at the Tate retrospective was, according to a critic of the Times, “too weighted with recent paintings” that were the source of controversy. The exhibition was attacked so violently that the stress inevitably fed into his personal life. When Kitaj’s wife died of a ruptured aneurysm, Kitaj blamed the critics for her death. Soon after, he left London for Los Angeles, and much of his later work was dedicated to his late-wife.

Called by a critic for the Times “one of the most passionate and committed artists of his time,” Kitaj continued to develop his work as he aged, and his last pieces were considered by critics to show a spontaneous and mature quality. Robert Hughes once wrote for Time magazine, quoted in the Los Angeles Times, that Kitaj “remains an artist of real, sometimes of remarkable interest: a restless omnivore whose way of painting, part personal confession, part syncopated history and part allusive homage to the old and Modernist masters, is quite unlike anybody else today.” Predeceased by both of his wives, Kitaj is survived by two children from his first marriage, screenwriter Lem Dobbs and his daughter Dominie; and his son by his second marriage, Max. He died on October 21, 2007, at his home in Los Angeles, a week before his 75th birthday. Sources: Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2007, p. B6; New York Times, October 24, 2007, p. C11; Times (London), October 23, 2007, p. 61; Washington Post, October 24, 2007, p. B9.

—Alana Joli Abbott

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kitaj, R. B.." Newsmakers 2008 Cumulation. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Kitaj, R. B.." Newsmakers 2008 Cumulation. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/journals/culture-magazines/kitaj-r-b

"Kitaj, R. B.." Newsmakers 2008 Cumulation. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/journals/culture-magazines/kitaj-r-b

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Kitaj, R.B.

KITAJ, R.B.

KITAJ, R.B. (1932– ), U.S. painter and printmaker. Born in Cleveland as Ronald Brooks, Kitaj took his surname from his stepfather, a Viennese refugee from the Nazi regime. From 1956 to 1958 he served in the Army as an illustrator, immediately after which he moved to England to study under the g.i. Bill at the Ruskin School of Art (1958–59). Before this time Kitaj received art training at the Cooper Union in New York (1950) and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (1951–52). In 1959 Kitaj transferred to the Royal College of Art in London. During this early period he experimented with a number of styles, including Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism, while taking life-drawing classes. His work often included collage elements and also a sense of collage through the painted juxtaposition of diverse subjects. In 1963 he had his first one-person exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery in London, the same year he began printmaking.

From the 1970s Kitaj painted highly personal subjects in an expressionistic manner, often of a Jewish nature. The recurrent figure of Joe Singer, the archetypal wandering Jew and a figure with strong autobiographical associations for the artist, appears for the first time in The Jew, Etc. (1976–79, collection of the artist). The exilic condition indeed preoccupies Kitaj, who wrote a book on the subject, The First Diasporist Manifesto.

In the early 1980s, Kitaj explored visual responses to the Holocaust. Seeking a symbol for the Jews akin to the Christian cross, in 1985 Kitaj began to utilize a chimney in reference to the ovens in which Nazis burned Jews. The eight pictures in the series that explored this iconography bear the overarching title Passion. One of the best-known Passion images, a picture of a train passenger titled The Jewish Rider (1984–85, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway), plays on Kitaj's knowledge of art history; the canvas is based partly on The Polish Rider (c. 1655, Frick Collection, New York), a work once attributed to Rembrandt. Other works by Kitaj that adapt an artistic precedent and explore Jewish identity include The Jewish School (Drawing a Golem) (1980, private collection, Monte Carlo), a painting derived from a 19th-century antisemitic German engraving titled Die Judenschule.

Following scathing reviews of his 1994 retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London, and the death of his wife soon after, Kitaj left England and moved to Los Angeles in 1997. Among Kitaj's many impressive accolades, in 1985 he became the first American since John Singer Sargent to be elected to the Royal Academy in London.

bibliography:

R.B. Kitaj, First Diasporist Manifesto (1989); R. Morphet, R.B. Kitaj (1994); M. Livingstone, R.B. Kitaj (1999); J. Aulich and J. Lynch (eds.), Critical Kitaj: Essays on the Work of R.B. Kitaj (2001).

[Samantha Baskind (2nd ed.)]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kitaj, R.B.." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Kitaj, R.B.." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kitaj-rb

"Kitaj, R.B.." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kitaj-rb

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.