R.B. Kitaj’s Passion (1940-45) Writing, created in 1985, is a powerful exploration of human suffering during World War II. The painting depicts a young man, modernized from Rembrandt’s original composition, surrounded by symbols of war and destruction. The figure is filled with anguish and the pain is palpable.
Kitaj’s choice to use a Modernized Rembrandt figure subtly references the multiple layers of history involved in the WWII tragedy – it serves to remind us that this was not an isolated tragedy but rather one that was connected to centuries-old bigotry and hate.
The artist’s background as both an American and European painter influences his use of collage techniques that are incorporated into the work. The agitated brushstrokes characteristic of Abstract Expressionism also blend seamlessly into his dynamic art style.