The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to
the British neo-Romantic tradition,
from 1880 to the present day.
While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of
publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions
remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden
tradition to light.
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WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?
Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration
from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.
Characteristic themes in their work include a
mystical approach to the British landscape...
ENTRY: Lenkiewicz, Robert.
Robert Oscar Lenkiewicz (b. 31 December 1941 – d. 6 August 2002) was
a major British artist.
Lenkiewicz was born in London in 1941, the son of refugees who ran a Jewish hotel in Fordwych Road whose elderly
residents included a number of survivors of the Nazi holocaust.
Lenkiewicz trained at St. Martin’s College of Art & Design and later attended the Royal
Academy. In both schools he studiously ignored the anti-figurative fashions of the day.
A resident of Plymouth, he came to public attention in the media spotlight which was
cast upon a giant mural on Plymouth's Barbican in the 1970s. Another furore occurred
in 1981 when he faked his own death in preparation for the forthcoming project of
paintings on the theme of death (1982): "I could not know what it was like to be dead,"
said the artist, "but I could discover what it was like to be thought dead."
Deeply unfashionable among art critics and gallerists, then still in thrall to conceptual
and modern installation works, his paintings nevertheless drew respect and interest from a
public not normally associated with galleries and museums. He painted on a large scale, usually in
themed Projects investigating hidden communities ("Vagrancy" 1973, "Mental Handicap" 1976) or taboo
subjects ("Suicide" 1980, "Death" 1982), or youth movements. In the 1990s he enjoyed growing
commercial success following his first exhibition with an established art dealer, and a
huge retrospective show of his entire works at the Birmingham ICC.
Lenkiewicz saw all his Projects (21 in all) as part of a large-scale investigation into
the origins of fascism - the tendency to treat other people as property - and the roots of
obsessive and fanatical behaviour. In this his work can be seen as paralleling the
work in film of his contemporary Derek Jarman.
A self-confessed bibliomaniac, Lenkiewicz amassed a private library of some 25,000 volumes
on philosophy, fascism, erotica, and mysticism. The library included one of the finest collections
of antiquarian books relating to witchcraft and pagan beliefs in private hands.
Lenkiewicz threw open the doors of his studios to anyone in need of a roof – tramps,
addicts, criminals and the mentally-ill congregated there. These individuals were
the subjects of his paintings as a young man. However, such colourful characters were
not welcomed by his neighbours and he was obliged to leave London in 1964.
He spent a year living in a remote cottage near Lanreath in Cornwall, supporting
his young family by teaching, before being offered studio space in Plymouth.
The artist’s home and studios once more became a magnet for vagrants and street alcoholics,
who then sat for paintings. Their numbers swelled and Lenkiewicz was forced to
commandeer derelict warehouses in the city to house the ‘dossers’. One of these
warehouses also served as a studio and in 1973 became the exhibition space
for the Vagrancy Project.
In the 1980s he notoriously embalmed the dead body of his friend, 'Diogenes the tramp' (Edwin McKenzie),
as part of his work. The tramp's dying wish had been to be made into a work of art.
The police intervened, but the body was only found after Lenkiewicz's death.
He would not have termed himself neo-romantic; but his focus on the irrational and occult and
its manifestation in the lanscape of everyday life, his focus on the exuberance of youth, and on the nobility of
outsiders, are all nevertheless central aspects of neo-romantic ideas.
Lenkiewicz official site.