This first volume of Mark D. Price’s two-part biography distils the contents of Lenkiewicz’s previously unseen private notebooks, diaries, and correspondence, and includes over a hundred interviews with partners, models, closest companions, family, friends, and children. The book tells the full story of Lenkiewicz’s controversial life and philosophy, as well as his paintings and thought-provoking projects.
Robert Lenkiewicz sought the total fusion of life and art. Determined to make every day ‘an experiment in living’, he became notorious for his complex love life, faking his own death, and embalming the corpse of his regular model, the vagrant ‘Diogenes’ (Edwin Mackenzie). In a series of immense projects spanning forty years, Lenkiewicz combined visual art, philosophy, and social activism to illuminate the lives of those he called ‘society’s invisible people’.
Born in war-torn London to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, Lenkiewicz moved to Plymouth in 1969 where he kept an open studio with an ‘all are welcome’ policy. His vast Barbican mural soon became one of the city’s best known and most popular landmarks. Largely ignored by the art establishment, he created his own audience of ordinary people who would never normally set foot in an art gallery or museum. His work nevertheless confronted the most serious of themes: vagrancy, mental handicap, old age, suicide, addiction, love, and death – often with wry, mischievous humour.