R.B.Kitaj, "If Not, Not, 1975-76, oil on canvas, 60 x 60." Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
In his blog Guardian critic Jonathan Jones suggests that bad reviews killed RB Kitaj. "In the expansive entrance hall of the British Library in London hangs a tapestry based on RB Kitaj's painting "If Not, Not" (1975–1976)....You can almost hear the helicopters and the opening guitar notes of The End by The Doors. Above the palm trees looms something worse: the deadly architecture of Auschwitz.
"Kitaj accused newspaper critics of driving his wife to her death, then took his own life. One of his last exhibitions was called 'Draw Draw Is Better Than Jaw Jaw.' The bad reception in London of his 1994 Tate retrospective caused him to move abroad (he was an American who had worked, up to then, in London). It seems he never got over it.
"Looking at 'If Not, Not' (the original painting is owned by the National Galleries of Scotland), I can't help but be angry at those critics. Why destroy an artist so cruelly? What was gained? Kitaj stood for a sense of history, a belief in drawing and an intelligent modernism. Are those such terrible qualities in an artist? 'If Not, Not' will be remembered when Kitaj's bad reviews, and their authors, are long forgotten. Stories like this make me wonder what my profession is actually for."