Published 12th March 2010
Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood are offering a private collection of pictures by Robert Lenkiewicz (1941-2002) for auction in Exeter on Saturday, 20th March 2010.
The collection represents an outstanding group of pictures which date from the 1950s to the last few months of Lenkiewicz's life.
Two of the major paintings in the collection are The Crucifixion (SF16/52) and The Last Supper (SF16/53), which were works in progress in 2002 and were housed in purpose built rooms in The Theology Studio on the Barbican in Plymouth, where they remained until the premises were cleared and they were removed to secure storage.
Among the rest of the collection are iconic Lenkiewicz paintings. Bernadette Travail (Yana) in Crimson Top (SF16/10) is a major work from 'Project 18, The Painter with Women: Observations on the Theme of The Double', (1994), and this is complemented by an outstanding group of portraits of women including two of Lisa Stokes, lots 8 and 9, and the powerful period portrait Study of The French Girl (lot 1), which on a small scale captures the intensity of the engagement between artist and sitter in the context of exploring human emotion and behaviour. Contrast this with the huge Last Supper canvas and one has a snapshot of the vast range and incredible output of Lenkiewicz as a painter.
On a similar scale to the Study of The French Girl, the earliest painting, the 1958 self-portrait of Lenkiewicz (SF16/4), demonstrates a confident, spontaneous use of paint and a characteristic and skilful understanding of tone which became hallmarks of Lenkiewicz. The close picture plane and tight composition indicate intense observation and exploration of character.
Cider Ryder with The Singer and Archie The Liar at Bath Street (SF16/28) is a monumental work of the highest quality. It is majestic, provocative and extraordinary; empowering the subjects with religious importance and ironically emphasising their place on the fringes of society.
Mary on The Studio Floor (SF16/25) is a beautiful portrait that captures the tension, loneliness and tragedy within the relationship between painter and subject. It contains symbolism that recurs in other major paintings. The torn and folded papers are fragments of the 'paper crowns' or magi fools hats (see Robert Lenkiewicz. Paintings & Projects: White Lane Press, pl 45), the wax candles and candlelight are a reference to mortality and recur in the Death Bed, (sold by Bearnes at Westpoint in 2008 for £96,000), and the symbolic paper cup can be interpreted as a metaphor for loss and emptiness.
When Robert Lenkiewicz died there was a small permanent exhibition hanging in a gallery called The Annexe on the Barbican. In pride of place was the painting of Robbie (lot 2), part of the unfinished Project 20: Addictive Behaviour, which is an excellent example of the level of intense observation which encapsulates the importance of the individual interpreted by Lenkiewicz. There is a huge amount of hearsay and rumour around Lenkiewicz and picture owners regularly claim that Robert told them theirs was one of his 'greatest ever works' (which no doubt he did). The painting of Robbie was clearly one of his favourite and most highly treasured, and it would be fair to say that there are a number of other paintings in this collection that rank alongside it.
Robert O Lenkiewicz was written on Friday, 12th March 2010.