Auctions: Kitaj collection on offer

Kitaj's influence on many of his classmates at the Royal College of Art in London was vast.

kitaj art 88 224 (photo credit: )
kitaj art 88 224
(photo credit: )
Part of the estate of painter R.B. Kitaj (1932-2007), the originator of the "School of London," will be offered by Christie's London on February 7. It comprises more than 50 works from the painter's personal collection, most of which was created by artists he associated with the School of London. Many of the oil paintings, drawings and prints appear at auction for the first time; the collection is estimated in the region of £3 million. In 1976, American-born Kitaj, who studied at Cooper Union and later in London under the GI Bill, curated an exhibition entitled The Human Clay. In his catalog essay, he referred to himself as a member of the School of London, a term that then sparked both debate and denial but which now has come to evoke the works of a select group of artists which includes Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Leon Kossoff, Frank Auerbach and Kitaj himself. Of this group, Bacon was the only artist not of Jewish origin (Kitaj later painted a number of oils with Holocaust references). Within the London group, one of the most legendary friendships was that between Bacon and Freud, who both were close friends of Kitaj. Early on Bacon had declared Kitaj to be the most promising young artist of his day. During the early 1950s, Bacon and Freud were almost inseparable, two forces to be reckoned with both on the postwar British art scene and in the bars and nightclubs of London. Francis Bacon, 1951, by Lucian Freud is a drawing showing a contemplative Bacon standing in a carnal pose (£100,000-£150,000). The Kitaj collection includes 14 works by Auerbach (b. 1931) including his arresting charcoal Self-Portrait, 1958 (£100,000-£150,000) and his Portrait of Helen Gillespie (£400,000-£600,000). Kitaj's own Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, 1982 (£30,000-£40,000) shows the artist paying knowing tribute to the history of art and self-portraiture. Similarly, Marynka Smoking, 1980 (£70,000-£100,000), an exquisite pastel, is his beguiling female nude. Kitaj's portrait was painted by his former classmate, Hockney: Ron Kitaj outside the Academy Vienna (£25,000-£35,000). Kitaj's influence on many of his classmates at the Royal College of Art in London was vast. But his 1994 retrospective at the Tate got a mixed reception that devastated him. He blamed critics for the death of his wife Sandra and left London for Los Angeles. Their only child, Max, a student at UCLA, worked as an intern at this newspaper last summer. A further selection of works from the R.B. Kitaj Collection will be offered in the London Prints sales in March and June 2008. CHRISTIE'S LONDON auctions of Impressionist & Modern Art and Post War & Contemporary Art include the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale (including Art of the Surreal) on February 4, followed by the Day Sale and Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper on February 5. The Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale is on February 6, followed by the Day Sale on February 7. The Collection of Maurice and Vivienne Wohl will be a feature of these sales. This collection of 35 works ranges from Camille Pissarro to Barbara Hepworth and includes superb paintings by Kees van Dongen and Alexej von Jawlensky. It is being sold to raise funds for the Maurice and Vivienne Wohl Philanthropic Foundation and is expected to fetch in excess of £12 million. YOSL BERGNER and the late Ludwig Blum, Yohanan Simon and Reuven Rubin have the most numerous works in the current and huge Tiroche of Herzliya sale, Part 1 of which takes place tomorrow at 7 p.m. Striking works by Lea Nikel, Ori Reisman and Arie Lubin are all worth attention. There are also three very good biblical gouaches by the late naif genius, Shalom (Der Zeigermacher) Moscovitz. The entire catalog can be viewed at Part 2, of more modest lots, will be sold on January 26.