R. B. Kitaj (American, 1932-2007)
Eclipse of God (After the Uccello Panel Called Breaking Down the Jew's Door), 1997-2000
- Oil and charcoal on canvas
- 35 15/16 x 47 15/16 in. (91.3 x 121.8 cm)
- The Jewish Museum, New York
- Purchase: Oscar and Regina Gruss Memorial and S. H. and Helen R. Scheuer Family Foundation Funds, 2000-71
Not on view
Encourage students to examine this painting carefully:
- What is happening in this painting? What visual evidence supports your ideas? What do you think could happen next?
- Imagine yourself in this scene. What sounds would you hear?
- How do the two sides of the painting differ in terms of color, line, shape, and brushstroke? Why do you think Kitaj rendered the two sides so differently?
[These visual contrasts may symbolize ideological differences.]
- How does the artist’s use of formal elements such as color, line, and shape help him tell his story? What does he communicate through these formal elements?
- Notice that the artist left some of his pencil marks visible and included areas of blank canvas in the painting. Why do you think he included these elements?
- Kitaj based his painting on a painting by the 15th-century artist Paolo Uccello. Compare the two works. How does Kitaj’s work differ from the Uccello painting?
FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION:
After giving students an opportunity to examine the painting, lead them in a discussion of related topics and themes. Explain how the painting relates to the much earlier painting by Uccello (below):
Location : Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino, Italy. Photo Credit : Scala / Art Resource, NY
- Why do you think Kitaj chose to interpret Uccello’s painting? What do you think he is trying to say? Does Kitaj’s work alter your view of the Uccello painting? If so, in what way?
- Notice what is written on the neck of the man in orange. How do you interpret that detail?
- Ask your students if knowing that the title of this painting is Eclipse of God influences their understanding of the work? If so, in what way(s)? Then let your students know that the title is a reference to a text by the philosopher Martin Buber. Describe the main idea of the text (see About the Work) or select a passage of it for them to read. How does this allusion further influence your understanding of the painting?
- What are some other examples (historic or contemporary; well known or personal) of people, communities, or cultures trying to invert a negative story or reclaim a negative term or label? Why would this be empowering to that individual or group?
RESEARCH TOPICS / CONTENTS CONNECTIONS:
- European Jewish History
- Renaissance and Contemporary Art
- Prejudice versus Tolerance