If Not, Not (1975-76) by R.B. Kitaj

If Not, Not - R.B. Kitaj - 1975-76

Artwork Information

TitleIf Not, Not
ArtistR.B. Kitaj
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions60 x 60 in. (152.4 x 152.4 cm)
Current LocationScottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

About If Not, Not

If Not, Not is a self-portrait painting by Ronald Brooks Kitaj, an American British artist from 1975-76. The artwork features Kitaj holding a baby in bed and exhibits qualities that are post-Surrealist in nature. The piece is notable for its references to T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land.”

The painting holds specific significance as it marks the beginning of Kitaj’s series of works about the Holocaust–a Central theme throughout his later years. If Not, Not conveys a deep feeling of melancholy and despair through its complex style and haunting imagery, representing a significant contrast to the sentiments that characterized much of Pop Art from previous decades.

Uniquely illustrating his Jewish roots, Ronald Brooks Kitaj was an artist who spent much of his life in England fusing techniques such as collage with agitated brushstrokes of Abstract Expressionism–manifesting often with socio-political tones meant to spark emotion. If not, not represents one such example where he successfully merged all three styles to convey his message meaningfully.

Kitaj’s influential work has been recognized by many institutions worldwide; it was also commissioned as a tapestry by the British Library which remains one of the largest ever known Dovecot tapestries. Overall If Not, Not continues to be acknowledged as an essential piece within contemporary art history even today–both for its complexity and how it highlights specific themes relative to intersectional topics still rampant worldwide today.

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