Robert Lenkiewicz was born in 1941 of Jewish parents who were refugees settled in England.
Lenkiwicz's formative years were spent in a small hotel in Kilburn, London where his parents supervised the care of a rather unusual clientele of elderly and frequently disturbed patrons. Lenkiewicz attributed his precocious interest in both art and philosophy to his experiences i...n this bizarre but rich environment, where he was "initiated into the business of living and an early awareness of death". His obsession with painting was evident at the age of nine years when he produced pictures using brushes made from his own hair. Later, he stitched together remnants of banner canvas, obtained from local stores, in order to create works of over 300 feet in length.
Robert Lenkiewicz went on to study at Saint Martin's School of Art and subsequently at the Royal Academy Schools. Then, following a period of teaching in London, he moved to the South West of England eventually settling into his parents spacious studio on Plymouth's Barbican.
Robert Lenkiewicz was a natural outsider and radical, consciously at odds with contemporary thinking on ethical and aesthetic issues. Nevertheless, he found a broad constituency amongst ordinary people, who were attracted by his charismatic personality, his generosity and his abundant gifts as an artist and educator.
Across a lifetime of just 60 years, 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). Despite his prolific output, he had only £12 cash in his possession (allegedly having never opened a bank account), and owed £2 million to various creditors.
It is almost unheard of today, that the death of an artist could elicit such an emotional public response as that of Lenkiewicz. His paintings communicated directly with ordinary people, who recognised that here was not only an artist of considerable talent but someone who had the power to make them contemplate their own lives and the world they live in.
In his obituary of Lenkiewicz, art critic David Lee observed: "Robert's greatest gift was to show us that an artist could be genuinely concerned about social and domestic issues and attempt the difficult task of expressing this conscience through the deeply unfashionable medium of figurative painting. In that sense, he was one of few serious painters of contemporary history."
Since his death, examples of his best paintings have fetched six figure sums in London auction rooms.