Letter: An outstanding artist who has been unfairly rubbished

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Sir: It is discouraging to see Andrew Graham-Dixon join the ragtag bunch of Thames Valley criticasters who have declared open season on R. B. Kitaj's retrospective at the Tate Gallery. I suspect that one reason they despise him is that he was born across the ocean in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. London could not abide Whistler in his day; or Ezra Pound, somewhat later on. As an American writer, I find England possible to live in only by retreating to a dale with rough fell sheep, far from the chattering and vituperation of Hampstead and Chelsea.

Despite the criticasters, is it not interesting that Kitaj commands the respect and affection of painters as fine as Bacon, Hockney, Freud, Kossoff, Auerbach, Hodgkin and Andrews? And of American and British poets such as Basil Bunting, Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Hugh MacDiarmid, John Ashbery, Christopher Middleton and myself? And this has been true for over 30 years in most cases.

It is useful to quote from a letter written by Ferruccio Busoni in 1904, on a train between New York and Chicago:

Artists are only there for artists: everything to do with critics, schools and teachers is stupid and dangerous rubbish.

Yours sincerely,


Dentdale, Cumbria

28 June