A rare and early work by one of Plymouth’s most celebrated artists, Robert Lenkiewicz, will be coming up for auction this month at Plymouth Auction Rooms. As part of the 1972/3 Vagrancy Project the artist often painted local vagrants who would gather around a ‘dos house’ known as Jacob Ladder. Lenkiewicz named him Diogenes after the Greek Philosopher who lived in a barrel after finding the tramp dwelling in a concrete pipe in a rubbish tip. Real name Edwin McKenzie (1912 to 1984), Diogenes soon became very popular at the studio with many people coming in to see not just the artwork but to meet the man himself. Many of the paintings were exhibited at the vagrancy exhibition in 1973 held at Jacobs Ladder.
Prior to his death, Diogenes made an agreement with Lenkiewicz to have his body embalmed.
‘Then, as he was dying, we had an understanding; he very much had the policy of ‘live while you can and live in clover, when you’m dead, you’m dead all over- — he didn’t much care what happened to the corpse. After he died I kept the agreement, which was to take the corpse, the “vacated premises”, and pass it on to a local funeral parlour who could embalm him effectively, and this was done. And it was done effectively because I have the corpse to this day.’ – Quote from Robert Lenkiewicz by Joe Stoneman.
A portrait painting titled “Diogenes and Black Pipe” has been re-discovered within a collection from Bristol. The family acquired the painting amongst some other early project work in the late 1970’s/1980 and have decided to consign them all to auction. The painting measuring 50cm x 40cm still retains the original label on the back supplied by the artists’ gallery at the time. It is now expected to sell for £4,000 to £5,000 at auction later this month.