The Architects, R. B. Kitaj
This family portrait of the architects MJ Long (right), Colin St John Wilson (seated) and their children, Sal in the doorway between her parents, and Harry to the far left, was painted by R. B. Kitaj from 1979. It was during this time that MJ Long was redesigning Kitaj’s studio at his terraced house in Chelsea – the setting for this group portrait. Kitaj and MJ Long’s husband Colin (known as Sandy) were impressive bibliophiles and it quickly became obvious to MJ that Kitaj’s space would have to be altered to include as many books as possible. This was achieved by the stepped bookcase that can be seen behind MJ in this portrait.
In 2010, MJ Long described sitting for Kitaj’s portrait. Although she had already been the architect of the artist’s studio and the pair had got along well, she described a change in their relationship when she became the subject of his work. He found the work frustrating, MJ often felt intimidated by the sittings, and Kitaj would often become irritable. However, when this painting was finished, which Kitaj described as a transitional work, the artist could boast a new era to his oeuvre.