R B Kitaj was born and raised in Ohio in 1932; in his later youth he studied at the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna and the Cooper Union school in New York City. He moved to England in the late 1950's to study at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford and at the Royal College of Art in London, where he met David Hockney, Patrick Caulfield, Allen Jones and other contemporary artists.
Kitaj taught at the Camberwell School of Art, Ealing Art College and the Slade School of Art throughout the 1960's. From the time he was offered his first solo exhibition in London in 1968, Kitaj came to have an important influence on British pop art. Several retrospectives have been shown of the artist's work in major collections around the world, including the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. in 1981 and the Tate Gallery in 1994. Kitaj returned to the US in 1997 and died ten years later.