Robert Lenkiewicz sought the total fusion of Life and Art. Determined to make every day ‘an experiment in living’, he became infamous for faking his own death, and embalming the corpse of his regular model, the vagrant ‘Diogenes’ (Edwin Mackenzie). His extraordinary skill in painting directly from life created a series of immense projects spanning forty years, combining visual art, philosophy, and social activism, often illuminating years ahead of his time the lives of those he termed ‘society’s invisible people’.
Born in war-torn London to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, Lenkiewicz moved to Plymouth in 1969 where he kept a large open studio with an ‘all are welcome’ policy. His vast 3000 square feet Elizabethan mural soon became one of the city’s best known and most popular landmarks. Ignoring and largely ignored by the London art establishment, Lenkiewicz 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: homelessness, mental health, old age, suicide, addiction, love, and death – sometimes with a wry, mischievous humour. His central question – what is it that causes people to be willing to kill or die for a belief, conviction, or another person? – could hardly be more relevant in today’s world.
This second and final volume of Mark D. Price’s definitive biography distils the contents of Lenkiewicz’s previously unseen private notebooks, diaries, and correspondence, and includes interviews with partners, models, lovers, family, friends and children. The book tells the full story of Lenkiewicz’s frequently controversial life and philosophy, as well as his prolific output of paintings and his creation of one of the country’s most remarkable private libraries, not only on subjects related to his paintings but his lifelong interest in philosophy, metaphysics and art history. His complex estate was valued in excess of £4 million before being ravaged by tax liabilities, creditors and legal costs.