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'The Orientalist' belongs to Kitaj's portraits, including 'The Jew' and 'The Greek' that relate to the theme of the expatriate. Kitaj is himself an expatriate. He was born in Ohio and has spent most of his life living between America and Britain, caught between two cultures. His stepfather, a Viennese research chemist, was a refugee from Nazi Europe. 'The Orientalist' was an invention, but for Kitaj he represents a real character, evoking the expatriate's sense of displacement. The artist has written: 'Some people live out their lives in places they don't come from, assigning themselves to a strange race of men and an alien sense of land and city... The real subject here is un-at-homeness'.

August 2004