A retrospective of Kitaj's works, which opened in London's Tate Gallery on June 16, 1994, received scathing reviews in leading British newspapers. Kitaj felt that the critics attacked him not only as an artist, but also as an American and a Jew. Kitaj's reaction went beyond a deep feeling of hurt: he also blamed the critics for his wife's sudden death shortly after the show.
Kitaj processed these traumatic experiences in his artwork. He expressed his anger and mourning in a three-part series that he called "Sandra". In one painting in this series, "The Killer-Critic Assassinated by His Widower, Even", Kitaj defended himself against his critics. The picture is characterized by aggression, the desire for revenge, the feeling of having been judged unfairly, and sadness. In it, Kitaj creates a collage that mixes historical and fictional events and figures with his own experiences.
The conflict between the British critics and R.B. Kitaj persisted for almost a decade. Kitaj repeatedly presented works in which he attacked his critics and held them responsible for his wife's death, while the critics in turn responded with their own articles and commentaries.
R.B. Kitaj on his painting "The Killer-Critic assassinated by his Widower, Even" (Excerpt from the exhibition's audio guide, narrator: Peter Rigney)