‘Artist’s palette’
Oil on board
36cm x 36cm
14″ x 14″
‘Man walking away from woman’
(Study for Jealousy Project 8)
Oil on medium-density fiberboard (mdf) roundel
120cm diameter
47″ diameter

Click images to enlarge

Robert Lenkiewicz was born in London in 1941, the son of Jewish refugees. He spent his childhood in the Jewish hotel in Cricklewood run by his parents, whose elderly residents, many of whom suffered from dementia and other vicissitudes of old age, made a lasting impression on the young Lenkiewicz.
His interest in painting was sparked as a child when he watched Charles Laughton portray Rembrandt in Alexander Korda’s film. At the age of sixteen he was accepted into St Martin’s College of Art and Design and later attended the Royal Academy. However, he was somewhat impervious to contemporary art fashions and pursued an independent course as a painter.

In London, Lenkiewicz threw open the doors of his studios to anyone in need of a roof; down and outs, addicts, criminals and the mentally ill congregated there. These individuals became the subjects of his paintings. However, his neighbours did not welcome such colourful characters and he was forced to leave London in 1964.

After a year living in a remote cottage near Lanreath in Cornwall, during which time he supported himself and his young family by teaching, he was offered studio space in Plymouth. The artist’s home and studios once more became a magnet for vagrants and street alcoholics who then sat for paintings. Their numbers swelled and Lenkiewicz was forced to commandeer derelict warehouses in the city to house the dossers, leading to his Vagrancy Project, combining thematically linked paintings with the publication of research notes and the collected observations of the sitters. Projects such as Mental Handicap, Old Age, Death and Suicide followed, as Lenkiewicz continued to examine the lives of ostracized, hidden sections of the community and bring them to the attention of the general public.

In 1994, breaking with his usual practice of showing his work in his own studios, Lenkiewicz exhibited many of the paintings from “The Painter with Women: Observations on the Theme of the Double” at the Birmingham International Convention Centre. More than 30,000 people visited the exhibition in a single week.

He died in August 2002 from a serious heart condition. Art critic David Lee observed “Robert’s greatest gift was to show us that an artist could be genuinely concerned about social and domestic issues and attempt the difficult task of expressing this conscience through the deeply unfashionable medium of figurative painting. In that sense he was one of few serious painters of contemporary history”.