Robert O. Lenkiewicz (1941-2002)

Much has been written about this provocative artist during and after his life, some about his work, perhaps even more about the man himself. Sometimes I feel he was born three hundred years too late, it is easy to imagine Lenkiewicz shuffling around the studio's of the great Baroque masters such as Velazquez and Rembrandt. It is true to say that all painters pay homage to the work of someone, and for Robert it was definitely an embodiment of the work of these two painters.

Like Rembrandt, Lenkiewicz possessed a profound understanding of human nature matched only by brilliantly academic technique. His work influenced admirers and students alike. It was said of Rembrandt that perhaps no artist ever painted as many self portraits (about 60), or subjected himself to such penetrating self analysis. Lenkiewicz certainly surpassed Rembrandt's record for self depiction by many hundreds, his self portraits bordered on the obsessive. Likewise, many of Rembrandt's pictures frequently served as studies of various emotions, Robert created entire projects around his thirst for introspective analysis, Jealousy (project 8) being just one. There were 20 projects in total, each featuring many paintings based on specific themes built loosely on the premise of 'relationships' and would be accompanied by copious notes and drawings.

In Velazquez we see once again an artist who invariably worked upon a dark background as did Robert much of the time. This meant two things, firstly it created a brooding almost furtive darkness that reaches in to the far corners of your consciousness, and secondly it enabled both artists to then employ clever use of light and shade, especially when it played off skin tones. Robert was a master in his own right in this respect; few artists could depict such emotion and beauty merely in their depiction of a cheek or shoulder.

Much of Robert's great intellect was gained through his lifelong, seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge. He amassed an enormous library, meticulously divided into rooms on such subjects as Theology, Metaphysics, Philosophy and Death.

So did he educate himself to such a degree in order to sound clever? Did his paintings have more meaning than was inevitably evident to the eye? Yes. But Robert didn't do it to be malevolent, he did it to try and engender interest and provoke thought because above all else he was a thinker and to truly understand his work you have first to understand the man.

View paintings by Robert Lenkiewicz
art gallery devon