Friday, April 15, 2016

Arty Farty Friday ~ Robert Lenkiewicz , English Eccentric.

Robert Lenkiewicz - this artist's work is probably not too well known in the USA. He was born in London on 31 December 1941, son of Jewish refugees who ran a Jewish hotel. He spent most of his adult life in and around Plymouth in England's lovely south-west. He died in 2002. He is believed to have had around 12 children from a string of partners.

Lenkiewicz's work was shunned by critics and the established art world, but was always popular with the public. Known for his traditional realistic portrait style, his own lifestyle and the subjects of his works were anything but traditional. He was known for themes on sexuality, mental handicap, suicide and people on the margins of society. He worked via what he called ‘Projects’: large-scale exhibitions of paintings and research notes related to sociological issues. Themes included vagrancy, mental handicap, old age, suicide, death. He sought to illuminate the lives of those he called "the invisible people". Other Projects depicted falling in love, jealousy, orgasm, and obsessive attraction. Lenkiewicz looked at "addictive behaviour" of various kinds. Some colourful characters he painted became an integral part of the Lenkiewicz mythology, in particular Edward McKenzie, known as "Diogenes", and Albert Fisher, known as "The Bishop".

One of several videos about Lenkiewicz at YouTube, this one titled "In His Own Words":

For an all-round idea of his painting style and subjects, take a look at the Google Image page featuring his works.

From an obituary, published in edited form in The Independent (August 2002), under the title 'Radical and Charismatic Painter' by Francis Mallett, August 2002:

His Projects were large in scale and ambition. Lenkiewicz recalled his fondness for the epic scale whilst still a student. At St. Martin's College of Art, he painted a canvas 364 feet long. "What happened, Lenkiewicz?" asked the Principal. "I'm sorry?" Lenkiewicz replied. "Well, that painting, what happened?" "I don't understand," Lenkiewicz replied again. "Well, did you run out of canvas?"

In 1971 Lenkiewicz's taste for the grand gesture led to his creation of the famous Barbican Mural, a painting 3000 feet square, dealing with the influence of Jewish thought on Elizabethan philosophy. Although Lenkiewicz was later rather embarrassed by it ('fairly skilled but illustrational'), the mural became a landmark for Plymothians, as well as visitors to the city. Unforgettably on April Fool's Day, as a result of one of his regular disputes with the local Council, the artist with typical wit whitewashed over it and replaced it with three flying ducks! In many ways, the history of Lenkiewicz is also the history of Plymouth over the past thirty years.

He was the most hardworking of artists, obsessive in his desire to record the event in front of him. To Lenkiewicz there was more humility involved in presenting one hundred images on a theme that didn't worry about high art than attempting to make the perfect painting. This didn't stop him producing some haunting early individual pieces: Plymouth Mourning over its Unfortunates; The Lynch; The Burial of John Kynance; Belle and Diogenes at prayer. The sombre colours - greys, greens and earthy browns - give these paintings a reflective, elegiac quality.........

Final paragraph:

Lenkiewicz will be remembered as a genuine outsider and radical, consciously at odds with current thinking on ethical and artistic issues. He cared less about the opinion of the art critic than that of the man-in-the-street. His art is generous in its ability to communicate with ordinary people, who are little interested in the more esoteric world of contemporary art; it is democratic and humane but never sentimental. Above all, his paintings reveal people for what they are without moral judgment. If the task of the artist is to show what it was to be alive in a certain time and in a certain place, then the qualities of Robert Lenkiewicz's work will increasingly become clear to future generations.

Another side of Lenkiewicz which interested me - his extensive library of occult books, which have now been sold off by Sothebys. (See also here.) Many rarities such as a first edition Malleus Maleficarum were among his collection, and a 17th century spotter's guide to witches and demons, by Joseph Glanvill. Also:
[Waite, A. E.,] The Sophic Hydrolith; or, Water Stone of the Wise.
This is a privately bound photocopy version taken from A. E. Waite’s Hermetic Museum, probably made by the late Robert Lenkiewicz as it came from his collection and he was in the habit of making various versions and binding various texts for his own pleasure. Black and brown square binding with title in gold to front cover.
And from the collection of eccentric English artist Robert Lenkiewicz
‘The Astrologian’s Guide in Horary Astrology’ - Stella, Rupertus[pseud.]
"A rare early 19th century English book on astrology, and probably the only title dedicated to horary astrology published between 1700 and 1850.
This is the only copy of this title to have been sold at auction in the past nine years, to the best of my knowledge. Lenkiewicz established a formidable private library of occult and other literature, but debts he owed on his death in 2002 forced the sale of most of it by auction. Lyon and Turnbull auctioneers of Scotland handled a large part of the sales. "

Information in this post, other than that directly linked, came from:
Plymouth Herald.
The artist's website.


Lenkiewicz is thought of as one of England's eccentrics - England has long been known for its excellence in producing this breed, by the way. When there's eccentricity in the mix, first look to Uranus. Here Uranus trines Neptune, as it did for a generation, but Uranus is conjunct Saturn, an odd pairing of past/future, tradition/avant garde, regulation/the unexpected. That conjunction, in harmony with dreamy, foggy Neptune makes an ever weirder mix, not at all surprising that it would produce an unconventional character such as Lenkiewicz.

His Sun and Mercury in Earthy, business-oriented Capricorn, while being a good match to his Taurus Saturn, is bound to bring about a few itches to scratch via Uranus. Natal Moon, somewhere in Gemini (degree unknown without time of birth) is more than likely to be in friendly aspect to Lenkiewicz's natal Venus (planet of the arts) in Aquarius. So... Capricorn Sun/Mercury looks after the business side of things, albeit in a still unconventional fashion (I read that the painter, after carrying out a commission, instead of asking for cash from the buyer, would hand him/her a bunch of his bills to pay). In spite of his Capricorn input, though, Lenkiewicz did die in debt, and his estate took more than 10 years to sort out.

Oh yes...there's the Yod: Jupiter (excess) and Pluto (darkness, eroticism)in sextile both form 150 degree aspects to natal Sun (self). His love of excess, for example his large-scale projects, his obvious sexual charisma (or whatever), blend together, then in scratchy alignment point to his rather conservative Sun in Capricorn. Recipe for the outlandishly traditional, or traditionally outlandish?


mike said...

Definitely an interesting artist, though most have their quirks it seems. His final dispositors are Venus-Saturn in mutual reception and square, and Mars in its rulership, sextile Venus, semi-sextile Saturn. I interpret his subject matter as a direct consequence of this tension. Venus-Saturn square is unpleasant, with a tendency toward finding the melancholia of life. Uranus conjunct Saturn would bring a strong perception and need to express social disorder, and stabilize it through his art (Venus). Adding the Neptune influence that you describe, pushes that envelope even further, perhaps taking it to the extremes where it could be materially detrimental to his well-being. His bartering method of survival rather than insisting on monetary sustenance...poor in real life, but leaving a very wealthy estate.

I won't quibble with your yod, but it almost seems more fitting that the yod be Jupiter-Chiron sextile, inconjunct his Sun-Mercury conjunction at the apex. His need to express the pain-suffering-inequality he saw in life, owning it as his own, and communicating it through his paintings. Most astrologers provide a 10* tolerance for aspects involving the Sun, so Pluto is certainly in that margin of's could be viewed as a double yod, I suppose.

mike (again) said...

Oooops - I should have said Venus is in mutual reception with Saturn AND Uranus, with Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Uranus as final dispositors.

Twilight said...

From JD (received by e-mail)

I see you have done a post on Bob Lenkiewicz and very good it is too. :)
In a conversation elsewhere, on comparison of Lenkiewicz with Jack Vettriano, I wrote:

"Both are shunned by the art establishment but for different reasons. Whereas Vettriano is merely inept, Lenkiewicz is ignored because his work is figurative and as such is unfashionable and not “cutting edge” or “challenging” or whatever Artspeak is currently in vogue.

Lenkiewicz could well be ignored also because he likes to paint beautiful young ladies and he often puts himself in the picture.

If Lenkiewicz is known at all it will be for his association with a Plymouth tramp by the name of Edward McKenzie, known as ‘Diogenes’. After McKenzie’s death, and with his prior agreement, Lenkiewicz took posession of the ‘vacated premises’ as McKenzie had referred to his corpse and had the body embalmed. It was then kept in the studio (in a drawer according to rumour).

The City Council were somewhat agitated by this but Lenkiewicz reminded them that they had two Egyptian mummies in the City museum asking, “Is it because mine is new?”

He also painted other tramps as well as others on the margins of society and, until the year before his death, he would provide a free Christmas dinner for the homeless.

R.I.P Bob. We need more painters like you and more humanity such as yours.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thank you for your take on his natal chart. He was a definite candidate for the Quirky School! :-) Agreed about possibility of a double Yod.

Twilight said...

JD ~ Thank you! Erm...but I rather like Jack Vettriano, not as any "great" artist, but just because he creates a specific atmosphere in his paintings - something a little different and specific to him.

Lenkiwicz was one of many interesting English eccentrics. I wonder why that fair land grows so many of 'em ? :-D