About this artwork

This is probably Kitaj's best-known and most complex work. The artist stated that the painting related to T S Eliot's poem 'The Waste Land'; the poet is depicted at the bottom left, wearing a hearing aid. The building in the top left corner is the gatehouse to Auschwitz. Below it lies a scene of cultural disintegration and moral collapse. The stagnant water, the dead and blackened trees, and the books scattered about the landscape, speak of death and destruction. A Matisse bust (coincidentally a variant of the one owned by the gallery) lies broken in the centre foreground. The small figure of the man in bed, holding a baby, is a self-portrait.

Ronald Brooks Kitaj

Ronald Brooks Kitaj

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Kitaj settled in Britain in 1957. He had previously studied at art schools in New York and Vienna and, after serving with the army in Germany, came to England on a G.I. Scholarship to study in Oxford and at the Royal College of Art, London. At a time when abstract art was prevalent, Kitaj worked figuratively, developing a personal artistic language derived from pictorial and literary sources. He became associated with the loose grouping of artists called the 'School of London', who were concerned with the human form. Kitaj moved to Los Angeles in 1997.