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R. B. Kitaj was born in 1932 at Cleveland, Ohio, US. In 1950 he went to sea on a Norweigian freighter which called at Havanna and Mexico. He studied one term at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York.
In 1951 he became a merchant seaman and signed on various tankers. He then went to Europe for the first time and studied until 1954 at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna, under Albert Paris Gütersloh and Fritz Wotruba. He returned to sea and to New York, travelled through Europe drawing, and spent the winter at the Mediterranean port of Sant Felio de Guixols, Catalonia. He corresponded with Ezra Pound.
He served in the American Army from 1955 to 1957, following which he studied at Oxford with a G.I. scholarship and from 1960 to 1962 at the Royal College of Art in London. He was a friend of David Hockney at the Royal College and showed in the Young Contemporaries exhibitions at the RBA Galleries.
Between 1961 and 1967 he taught at Ealing Technical College, at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, and at the Slade School. In 1962 he collaborated with Eduardo Paolozzi and started using collage.
In 1963 he had his first one-man exhibition at the Marlborough New London Gallery. In 1964 he was represented at the Venice Biennale and the documenta "3" exhibition and in 1968 at the documenta "4", Kassel. In 1965-66 he visited the USA and was given his first retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, shown in 1967 at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. In the same year he was Guest Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1968 he returned to England and became a friend of Jim Dine. In 1968 a retrospective exhibition of his entire graphic work went on tour to Stuttgart, Munich, Düsseldorf, Lübeck and Bonn and he worked on a project for the exhibition Art and Technology at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In 1971 he returned to London. He went to Cadaqués to meet Richard Hamilton. In 1976 he was included in the exhibition Pop Art in England shown at Hamburg, Munich and York. In 1978-79 he concentrated entirely on drawing from models in pastel. In 1981 he was represented at the exhibition A New Spirit in Painting at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. He also had a large retrospective exhibition of his work from 1958 to 1981 at Washington, Cleveland and Düsseldorf.
Kitaj shows the political and social effects of contemporary mass culture in his pictures, partly with reference to historical events and their manipulation and consumption via the mass media.
R.B. Kitaj :: Death
Kitaj married his first wife, Elsi Roessler, in 1953; they had a son, screenwriter Lem Dobbs, and a daughter, Dominie. His first wife committed suicide in 1969.
After living together for 12 years, he married Sandra Fisher in December 1983; they had one son, Max. She died of a brain aneurysm in 1994.
He had a mild heart attack in 1990. He died in Los Angeles in October 2007, eight days before his 75th birthday. Seven weeks after Kitaj's death, the Los Angeles County coroner ruled that the cause of death was suicide.
Gallery :: Paintings & Prints
Estate of R.B. Kitaj
c/o Marlborough Fine Art
6 Albemarle Street
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