Robert Oscar Lenkiewicz (31 December 1941 – 5 August 2002) was one of South West England’s most celebrated artists of modern times. Perennially unfashionable in high art circles, his work was nevertheless popular with the public. He produced as many as 10,000 works (though this figure includes his prolific output as a pencil portrait artist), often on a large scale, and in themed ‘projects’ investigating hidden communities (Vagrancy 1973, Mental Handicap 1976) or difficult social issues (Suicide 1980, Death 1982).
Established in 1997, an educational charity, The Lenkiewicz Foundation, received the bequest of the painter’s remaining collection of works in 2013 after an estate administration that lasted more than eleven years. The artist’s voluminous diaries, illustrated notebooks and relationship journals are in the Foundation’s collection, which was shown at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery in 2009. The Foundation has curated a number of posthumous exhibitions: Self-Portraits 1956-2002 at the Ben Uri Gallery, Jewish Museum of Art in London in 2008; Lenkiewicz: The Legacy – Works from The Lenkiewicz Foundation Collection at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery in 2009; Still Lives at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol in 2011; Death and the Maiden at Torre Abbey, in Torquay later that year; and Human, All Too Human at the Royal William Yard in the artist’s adopted city of Plymouth in 2012. This exhibition, in expanded form, travelled to Germany (Spinnerei, Leipzig and AufAEG, Nuremberg) in 2013, where it became the first overseas exhibition of the artist’s work to date.