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 R. B. Kitaj  (1932 - 2007)

/ KI-tie/
About: R. B. Kitaj
 

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Lived/Active: New York/Ohio / England      Known for: abstract figure, animal and portrait painting

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BIOGRAPHY for R. Kitaj
Facts/Data
Birth
1932 (Cleveland, Ohio)
 
Death
2007

Lived/Active
New York/Ohio / England


Self portrait - SELF-PORTRAIT WITH GRETA PROZOR


Often Known For
abstract figure, animal and portrait painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following text was written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher of Laguna  Woods, California:

Ronald Brooks was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1932. He took the additional name of his mother's second husband, Dr. Walter Kitaj, a Viennese Jew. At an early age, he developed a compassion for persons less fortunate and became dedicated to socialism, which had a lasting effect on his life and work. 

The artist attended high school in Troy, New York and after high school, inspired by the early travels of Joseph Conrad and Eugene O"Neill, he became a merchant seaman for four years. His travels were punctuated by periods of study at the Cooper Union in New York and the Academy in Vienna. He was drafted into the Army in 1956 and was stationed in France.  When he got out two years later, he used his G.I. Bill benefits to study at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at Oxford, transferring a year later to the Royal College of Art in London.   

He married Elsi Roessler, a fellow American student whom he had met in Vienna in 1953.  They had a son, Lem and adopted a daughter, Dominie. (Lem is a Hollywood screenwriter who goes by the name of Lem Dobbs.)  Kitaj's second wife, the painter Sandra Fisher, died at the age of only forty-seven in London, leaving Kitaj alone with their ten year old son, Max.   

After a visit to Paris in 1975 he was inspired by Degas to take up pastel which he has used for much of his subsequent work.  Late 19th century French art has been a major source of inspiration, as has a preoccupation with his Jewish identity. He was stirred by the events during World War II in Europe, especially as recollected by his parents and his Jewish step-grandmother, who moved in with his family.   

Sources include:  
From the internet, WebMuseum, Paris,  Electric Library


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, to a Viennese mother and Jewish stepfather, Ronald Brooks (R.B.) Kitaj became a noted painter and printmaker whose subjects were realistic and abstract figure and genre. Many of his works were inspired by his political ideas and by reactions to stories he heard from his family about the Nazis during World War II.

At an early age, he developed a compassion for persons less fortunate and became dedicated to socialism, which had a lasting effect on his life and work. He was stirred by discussions about the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War and by the events during World War II in Europe, especially as recollected by his parents and his Jewish step-grandmother, who moved in with his family.

Kitaj also learned much on various voyages as a merchant seaman in Latin America and through attending art schools, first in 1950 at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York, and in 1951 to 1952 at the Akademie der Bildenden KŁnste, Vienna, under Albert Paris von GŁtersloh.

After his marriage in 1953 to Elsi Roessler, a fellow American student whom he had met in Vienna, he made his first extended visit to the Catalan port of San FelŪu de Guixols, and he continued to return their regularly over the next 30 years.

From 1955 to the end of 1957 he served in the American Army near Fontainebleau, where he drew pictures of the Russian tanks and installations for war games.

Biography from GallArt.com:
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, R.B. Kitaj studied at the Cooper Union Institute in New York in 1950-51 and 1952. As a merchant seaman in the early 1950s he visited Havana, Mexico and South America. He was a student at the Academy of Fine Art, Vienna in 1951. He attended the Ruskin School, Oxford in 1958-9, and the Royal College of Art from 1959 to 1961. It was at the Royal College that he met David Hockney, who became a close friend.

His first one-man exhibition was held at Marlborough Fine Art, London in 1963. He taught at the University of California Berkeley in 1967-8 and the University of California Los Angeles in 1970-1.

In 1972 he returned to London. His 1983 marriage to the American artist Sandra Fisher (1947-94) is celebrated in his paintings Cecil Court and The Wedding.

In 1976 Kitaj selected for the Arts Council of Great Britain a group of British works, connected by a common theme, which formed the core of an exhibition called "The Human Clay." The show included works by Bacon, Freud, Auerbach, Kossoff, Moore, Hodgkin, Hockney, Kitaj himself, and others. Kitaj's essay for the catalogue, in which he proposed the idea of a School of London, became one of the key art historical texts of the period. In 1989 he published the First Diasporist Manifesto, the longest and most impassioned of his many texts discussing the Jewish dimension in his art and thought.

His various honours include election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1982. In 1985 he became the first American since Sargent to be elected to the Royal Academy.

Numerous retrospective exhibitions of his work have been held, including shows at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC and tour 1981-2; and the Tate Gallery, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1994-5.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1997.

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