R. B. Kitaj


The Artist
Mrs V. E. Kelley, St. Helier, Jersey, acquired directly from the artist
With Browse & Darby, London
Private Collection, USA


1988, London, Marlborough Fine Art, Works on Paper by Contemporary Artists, March - April 1988, ex-catalogue
2013, London, Browse & Darby, A Critic's Choice: 1950-2000, 20 March - 19 April 2013, unnumbered


Tracy Bartley at the R.B. Kitaj Studio, Los Angeles, has confirmed that the work is recorded in their database and it will be listed in any future catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.
R.B. Kitaj’s art is notable for its complex iconography, often drawing imagery together from disparate sources, and for its use of effervescent colour and gesture. He suffered from depression throughout his life and Fed Up, Again is characteristically autobiographical in its exploration of this theme. The figure in the painting is Kitaj himself, clearly identifiable by his beard. An admirer of the northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer, Kitaj used in this painting the timeless gesture of a melancholy man: a hand raised to the face in anguish. At once learned in its reference and emotive in its suggestion of great sadness, the title ‘Fed Up, Again’ is a playful simplification of a more serious theme. A slightly later work, Melancholy after Durer (1989, British Council Collection), makes this reference clear by overtly referencing the earlier artist’s famous engraving Melencolia I (1514).

It was in the 1980s that Kitaj and his contemporaries, Andrews, Freud, Kossoff and Auerbach, started to receive recognition for their sustained artistic engagement with the human figure. As the curator of The Human Clay, an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in 1976 that brought together work by figurative painters, Kitaj rose to prominence for promoting the values of individualism which still shape Western artistic culture today. His first retrospective exhibition was held at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C., in 1981 – the same year that he executed Fed Up, Again. The Museum’s synopsis for the exhibition made clear Kitaj’s ‘deep compassion for the tragic nature of the human condition’, further demonstrating the central place of works such as Fed Up, Again in his oeuvre.

The work has been painted with prominent, highly textured brushwork, which relates to the mood of the painting and further conveys the sense of emotional disturbance indicated by the figure’s melancholy gesture. Kitaj chose this unusually coarse, rough-edged canvas as a suitable support for such a thick, heavily worked application of paint. Indeed, the ground of the picture is composed from textured strokes of pink paint, while the figure is constructed from brightly coloured panels of clothing: the flat areas of the green jumper, blue shoes and red cushion sit beside the bold, wet-in-wet technique used for the artist’s flamboyant orange trousers. These differing, knowingly contrasted styles of execution in Fed Up, Again suggest not just the artist’s intellectual brilliance, but his technical acumen too.