R. B. Kitaj, 1932–2007


Colorful painting of three women and a black cat next to a body of water

R. B. Kitaj, The Rise of Fascism, 1975–1979, pastel and oil on paper, 85 × 158 cm; Collection of R.B. Kitaj Estate

After the death of the painter R. B. Kitaj, in 2007, the Jewish Museum Berlin held the first wide-ranging show of his life’s work from autumn 2012 to early 2013. The traveling retrospective – 14 years after the preceding Kitaj retrospective – thoroughly represented each period of his extensive oeuvre with around 130 paintings, prints, and drawings.

Past exhibition

Map with all buildings that belong to the Jewish Museum Berlin. The Old Building is marked in green


Old Building, level 1
Lindenstraße 9–14, 10969 Berlin

Introduction to the exhibit with Cilly Kugelmann (Program Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin), Tracy Bartley (Leader of the R. B. Kitaj Studio in Los Angeles), Dr. Eckhart Gillen (exhibition curator) and Tom Freudenheim (art historian and journalist).

Lovers and enemies, phases of virility and physical frailty, politics, history, literature, philosophy, and foremost the question of his connection with Judaism – a product of neither religion nor Zionism – are the puzzle pieces with which Kitaj created his impressive images and collages.

Unconcerned by the tastes of the masses, Kitaj’s work resisted the fashionability of abstraction in the 1960s and he became a pioneer of contemporary figurative painting along with David Hockney, Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, and Leon Kossoff. Confronting the history of the mass murder of European Jews and grappling with outsider status led him to propose a Jewish art for the modern age, which he termed “diasporist” and enacted with a vibrant palette, rich subjects, and an enigmatic air.

R. B. Kitaj (1932–2007)

More on Wikipedia

David Hockney (* 1935)

More on Wikipedia

Frank Auerbach (* 1931)

More on Wikipedia

Lucian Freud (1922–2011)

More on Wikipedia

Leon Kossoff (* 1926)

More on Wikipedia

“That’s what I want to be, a tribal remembrancer, wrestling with my Diasporic angel” —R. B. Kitaj, Diasporist Manifesto
Abstract painting of a collage of images including palm trees, a man wearing a business suit, buildings, dogs, and assorted faces

R. B. Kitaj, If Not, Not, 1975/76, oil on canvas and black chalk, 60 x 60 cm; Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

Today, Kitaj’s paintings can be found in the world's major museums and in large private collections. This exhibition was made possible by the generous support of lenders, among them the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate in London, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.

Works by R. B. Kitaj online

Many of R. B. Kitaj's paintings can be found on the websites of the most important lenders for this exhibition:
Tate Gallery website
Museum of Modern Art website 
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum website

Some R. B. Kitaj paintings were also presented on our web page for the exhibition, and, where possible, supplemented with quotes from the artist: 
Exhibition website (in German)

Exhibition Information at a Glance

  • When 21 Sep 2012 to 27 Jan 2013
  • Where Old Building, level 1
    Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin 
    See Location on Map
Painting of a gray haired man hunched over while grabbing his chest, he is holding a red book in his left hand and is surrounded by cardboard boxes

R. B. Kitaj, Unpacking my Library, 1990/91, oil on canvas, 122 x 122 cm; Collection of Joseph Kitaj

With the support of the Friends of the Jewish Museum Berlin

Share, Newsletter, Feedback