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Finding Aid for the R.B. Kitaj papers, 1950-2007 (bulk 1965-2006)
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R.B. Kitaj was an influential and controversial American artist who lived in London for much of his life. He is the creator of many major works including; The Ohio Gang (1964), The Autumn of Central Paris (after Walter Benjamin) 1972-3; If Not, Not (1975-76) and Cecil Court, London W.C.2. (The Refugees) (1983-4). Throughout his artistic career, Kitaj drew inspiration from history, literature and his personal life. His circle of friends included philosophers, writers, poets, filmmakers, and other artists, many of whom he painted. Kitaj also received a number of honorary doctorates and awards including the Golden Lion for Painting at the XLVI Venice Biennale (1995). He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1982) and the Royal Academy of Arts (1985). He is the author of two books, The First Diasporist Manifesto (1989) and Second Diasporist Manifesto (2007). Kitaj's works are in the permanent collections of over 50 museums internationally.
R.B. Kitaj was born Ronald Brooks, in Cleveland Ohio, on October 29, 1932 to Jeanne Brooks and Sigmund Benway. His parents divorced when he was two years old and the he had no further contact with his father who died in Los Angeles, California in the late 1940s. Jeanne Brooks supported herself and young Kitaj by working as a secretary at a steel mill. Kitaj's first art training came in the form of children's art school classes at the Cleveland Museum where he spent his Saturdays, while his mother worked. Ronald grew up in an agnostic, liberal home influenced by his mother's circle of friends, some of whom had fled the rise of Nazism in Europe. In 1941, Jeanne married Viennese refugee and research chemist, Walter Kitaj. Ronald adopted his stepfather's surname. In 1942, the family moved to Troy, New York where Kitaj attended Troy High School and developed lifelong friendships with Jim Whiton, John and David Ward and others. At the end of the World War II, Walter Kitaj's mother Helene came to live with the family in New York. Helene had fled Vienna in the 1930s and survived the Holocaust by taking refuge in Sweden while many of her family members, including two sisters, had been killed. Helene's presence had a strong impact on young Kitaj and also helped to form a distinct part of his Jewish identity. In one of his early works, The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg (1960) Kitaj depicts Helene along with his maternal grandmother, Rose Brooks. Portrait of a Jewish Artist: R.B. Kitaj in Text and Image, January - April 2008 . Held in conjunction with the Skirball Cultural Center's R.B. Kitaj: Passion and Memory .
160 boxes (80 linear ft.) 85 oversized boxes
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