I first met R. B. Kitaj in the 1980s with his friends the artist John Golding, the historian James Joll and the philosopher Richard Wollheim. At home in such formidable intellectual company, Kitaj more than held his own in discussions about aesthetics and politics. Indeed, he contributed a uniquely broad and transatlantic frame of reference to what he called the School of London. Born in the United States, he was trained in Vienna, New York, Oxford and London. Eschewing national identities, Kitaj called himself a Diasporist but embraced the entire Judaeo-Christian tradition, identifying strongly with pre-war Jewish intellectuals such as Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin. Together with David Hockney and Lucian Freud, Kitaj played a crucial role in the restoration of figurative art, especially of the human form, overcoming entrenched prejudices in Europe and America. Despite his fame and distinction, Kitaj found himself marginalised by the triumph of conceptual and installation art in the 1990s. Three years ago, Kitaj committed suicide in Los Angeles, shortly before his 75th birthday. Standpoint is delighted to honour his memory with this selection of his works.
All Images © The Estate of R. B. Kitaj/Marlborough Fine Art