R.B. Kitaj (1932-2007) was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to a Viennese mother and Jewish stepfather. In 1959 he moved to London, where he attended the Ruskin School and the Royal College of Art and became more closely associated with British rather than American painting. Kitaj and his friend David Hockney were both involved with the beginnings of the Pop Art movement in Britain.
Kitaj’s paintings are grounded in exquisite figurative drawing, their smooth surfaces splashed with areas of bright color and covered with collage-like elements filled with planes, people, and objects. He held many intellectual interests, including surrealism, art and political history, literature, and Jewish identity, which influenced his work. 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.
In 1963 Kitaj 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 LA County Museum of Art. In 1968 he returned to England and became friends with Jim Dine. A retrospective exhibition of his entire graphic work went on tour to Stuttgart, Munich, Dusseldorf, Lubeck and Bonn (1968) and he worked on a project for the exhibition Art and Technology at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He also had a large retrospective exhibition of his work from 1958 to 1981 at Washington, Cleveland and Dusseldorf. In 1997, Kitaj returned to the United States, settling in Hollywood. (bio)