This painting belongs to a series of portraits of friends and intellectuals that Kitaj produced in the seventies, and is related to the artist's frequent sojourns in the Catalan town Sant Feliu de Guíxols and to his first-hand knowledge of Spanish history and culture. His friend Nissa Torrents (Barcelona, 1937-London, 1992), a distinguished Hispanist who taught at London's University College, sits in a chair designed by the architect Alvar Aalto from Kitaj's London studio. The interior is enlivened by a mobile of two cats and includes a table that displays several objects, depicted in a forced perspective. The mobile, attributed to the young Picasso, was the emblem of the famous Barcelona café Els Quatre Gats, a meeting place for painters and intellectuals. The composition is divided up into large planes by means of well-defined drawing, and the upper right area is bathed in the Mediterranean light of the Costa Brava landscape.
Kitaj was born in an American family of Jewish origin. In the early 1950s he alternated his art studies in New York with his travels as a merchant seaman. In 1957 Kitaj moved to England, where he would remain for many years, becoming—alongside his friend David Hockney—a key figure in British Pop Art. In 1997 he settled back in the United States. Kitaj's oeuvre contains narrative and autobiographical elements that express his interest in philosophy, literature, history and politics by means of a highly personal representational language. [M.G.M.]
El espejo y la máscara : el retrato en el siglo de Picasso [Cat. exp.]. Madrid ; Forth Worth : Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza ; Fundación Caja Madrid ; Kimbell Art Museum, 2007, pp. 307 y 322.
Adquisiciones 02/07. [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 2007, pp. 74-75, n.º 28.
Obsessionen : R.B. Kitaj (1932-2007). Berlín : Kerber, 2012, pp. 125 y 253.
Bare Life : Bacon, Freud, Hockney and others : London artists working from life 1950-80. [Cat. exp.].Münster : LWL Museum für Kunst und Kultur, 2014, pp. 207 y 216, n.º 99.
Javier González de Durana. Figurados, figuraciones, figurantes : estar o (tal vez) soñar. [Cat. exp.].Bilbao : Iberdrola, 2015, pp. 16, 68, 71, 202.
Marta García Maruri. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao : guía. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 2011 (1ª ed. 2006; ed. inglés; ed. francés; ed. euskera), p. 198, n.º 141, ad vocem.