Chagrin Falls, OH United States
Born in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, his father left his mother shortly after his birth and they were divorced in 1934. His mother, who was an American-born daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants worked in a steel mill as a teacher and later remarried in 1941 to Dr. Walter Kitaj. Ronald became a merchant seaman with a Norwegian freighter when he was 17 before studying at the Akadmie der bildenden Kunste in Vienna and the Cooper Union in New York City. After serving in the United States Army for two years in France and Germany he moved to England to study at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Arts in Oxford (1958-59). Here he developed a love for Cezanne. He then studied at the Royal College of Art in London (1959-61) alongside David Hockney, Derek Boshier, Peter Phillips, Allen Jones and Patrick Caulfield.
Kitaj settled in England, and through the 1960's taught at the Ealing Art college, the Camberwell School of Art and the Slade School of Art. In 1968 he also taught at the University of California, Berkeley. He staged his first solo exhibition at Marborough New London Gallery in London in 1963, entitled "Pictures with commentary, Pictures without commentary". In this exhibition text was included in the pictures and the accompanying catalogue referred to a range of literature and history, citing Aby Warburg's analysis of symbolic forms as a major influence.