This is Robert Lenkiewicz

By Gwylym Owen

Robert Oscar Lenkiewicz (31 December 1941 – 5 August 2002) was one of South West England’s most celebrated artists of advanced times. Perennially unfashionable in tall art circles, his fake was yet popular when the public. Lenkiewicz is regarded by some as a good painter who is ‘finally bodily recognised as such after anything these years of leaving by the art establishment, particularly by London, who would never have him. He didn’t really conduct yourself the game as far as London classified ad galleries were concerned. He did his own business out in the provinces, which was looked the length of upon.’

He produced as many as 10,000 works (though this figure includes his prolific output as a pencil portrait artist), often upon a large scale, and in themed ‘projects’ investigating hidden communities (Vagrancy 1973, Mental Handicap 1976) or hard social issues (Suicide 1980, Death 1982).

In 1981, he faked his own death, announcing his demise to the local newspapers. When Lenkiewicz died in 2002, he left at the rear a particularly macabre legacy as an embalmed corpse of a tramp was found hidden astern some enlarge panelling at the bottom of a bookcase.

The Lenkiewicz Foundation (educational charity) was received in 1997, received the bequest of the painter’s enduring collection of works. The artist’s voluminous diaries, illustrated notebooks and relationship journals are in the Foundation’s collection, which was shown at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery in 2009. The Foundation has curated a number of posthumous exhibitions: Self-Portraits 1956-2002 at the Ben Uri Gallery, Jewish Museum of Art in London in 2008; Lenkiewicz: The Legacy – Works from The Lenkiewicz Foundation Collection at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery in 2009; Still Lives at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol in 2011; Death and the Maiden at Torre Abbey, in Torquay well ahead that year; and Human, All Too Human at the Royal William Yard in the artist’s adopted city of Plymouth in 2012. This exhibition, in expanded form, travelled to Germany (Spinnerei in Leipzig and AufAEG in Nuremberg) in 2013, where it became the first overseas exhibition of the artist’s show to date.

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