Kitaj had a significant influence on British pop art, with his figurative paintings featuring areas of bright colour, economic use of line and overlapping planes which made them resemble collages, but eschewing most abstraction and modernism. Allusions to political history, art, literature and Jewish identity often recur in his work, mixed together on one canvas to produce a collage effect. He also produced a number of screen-prints with printer Chris Prater. He told Tony Reichardt, manager of the Marlborough New London Gallery, that he made screen-prints as sketches for his future paintings. From then onwards Tony Reichardt commissioned Chris Prater to print three or four copies of every print he made on canvas. His later works became more personal.
Kitaj was recognised as being one of the world's leading draftsmen, almost on a par with, or compared to, Degas. Indeed, he was taught drawing at Oxford by Percy Horton, whom Kitaj claimed was a pupil of Walter Sickert, who was a pupil of Degas; and the teacher of Degas studied under Ingres. Meanwhile, Edgar Wind encouraged him to become a 'Warburgian artist'. His more complex compositions build on his line work using a montage practice, which he called 'agitational usage'. Kitaj often depicts disorienting landscapes and impossible 3D constructions, with exaggerated and pliable human forms. He often assumes a detached outsider point of view, in conflict with dominant historical narratives. This is best portrayed by his masterpiece "The Autumn of Central Paris" (1972–73), wherein philosopher Walter Benjamin is portrayed, as both the orchestrator and victim of historical madness. The futility of historical progress creates a disjointed architecture that is maddening to deconstruct. He staged a major exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1965, and a retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. in 1981. He selected paintings for an exhibition, "The Artist's Eye", at the National Gallery, London in 1980. In 1981 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member and became a full Academician in 1984.