Kitaj once said that books are for him what trees are for a landscape painter. His ateliers in the London neighborhood of Chelsea and in Westwood, Los Angeles, were crammed full of books, on shelves, around his easels and piled up on the floor.
He was already ranging through the cheap bookshops on 4th Avenue – the largest bookselling district in the world – on his way to Cooper Union when he was a student there. He found the modern classics like James Joyce, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Kafka, as well as journals such as the “Partisan Review” and the American surrealist magazine “View.” In Oxford, his teacher Edgar Wind introduced him to the Warburg School and he bought a complete set of the famous “Journals of the Warburg Institute.” His visual imagination was fuelled by the illustrations for the “Afterlife of Antiquity,” copperplate engravings made according to ancient templates. In 1969, Kitaj published as silkscreens 50 book jackets from his personal library, in an edition that he called “In Our Time: Covers for a Small Library after the Life for the Most Part.” Continue reading