Born in London in 1941, Robert Lenkiewicz was the son of Jewish refugees and spent his childhood in his parent’s hotel in Cricklewood. The hotel was largely inhabited by refugees and survivors of the concentration camps.
From an early age, Lenkiewicz painted with great confidence on a large scale and was inspired by seeing Charles Laughtons’ portrayal of Rembrandt in Korda’s film and the equestrian paintings of George Stubbs. Early subjects were portraits of the hotel residents and horses.
At 16, he was accepted into St Martin’s College of Art and Design and later attended The Royal Academy but his energy and passion was always generated by the freedom of working independently.
Having established a studio by 1964, which he threw open to all comers and anyone who needed a roof, the result was a steady and growing stream of colourful characters from the fringes of society: homeless, addicts, mentally ill and criminals all gathered and Lenkiewicz was soon forced to leave.
Lenkiewicz moved to a remote cottage near Lanreath in Cornwall, earned money by teaching and was offered studio space in Plymouth. The new home and studio of Lenkiewicz soon became a popular magnet for the vagrants and street alcoholics of the City and these characters became the subjects of many paintings of the period.
Throughout his life Lenkiewicz worked on a number of themed Projects based around ‘sociological enquires examining human physiology in a state of crisis’ and these Projects now include some of the most extraordinary paintings, interpretations and ideas.
Forthright, honest and challenging examinations of contemporary perceptions and attitudes towards subjects like Death, Handicap, Sexual Behaviour, Suicide and Addiction have produced many quite exceptional images. Lenkiewicz excelled at portraiture, capturing the psychological nuances of his subjects.
He died in 2002, leaving a legacy of his art work and controversially, the mummified body of a tramp hidden behind panelling in his studio.