Artworks by Lenkiewicz will be auctioned to pay debts

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The Independent Online

Paintings by the eccentric artist Robert Lenkiewicz, who kept the body of an embalmed tramp in his studio, are to be sold at auction to pay debts left on his death.

A collection of 150 drawings and paintings by the artist, who became famous for his frank depictions of the human body and his retinue of female companions, is expected to raise enough money to clear half of his estate's £1m debts when they go on sale in September.

The pictures will include a number from his renowned project on vagrancy, which included portraits of Les Ryder, who now lives in a residential home in Plymouth.

The embalmed corpse of Edwin Mackenzie, another tramp known as Diogenes who died nearly 20 years ago, is not for sale. His remains were found in a secret drawer in a bookcase after the artist died last August. A coroner ruled last year that they were the property of the dead artist's estate. Peter Walmsley, executor of his estate, declined yesterday to say where the body was.

Items on sale include "Vagrants Dance to Mahler", a huge painting on sailcloth showing some tramps wheeling around his studio. Another, "Les Ryder, asleep" is estimated to sell for £10,000 to £15,000 at the London auction.

Lenkiewicz worked on more than 20 projects relating to the human condition during an unconventional career. The projects covered themes of jealousy, orgasm and sexual behaviour.

He was born in London in 1941, the son of Jewish refugees, but was eventually forced to leave the capital after throwing open his doors to down-and-outs in Hampstead, north London, much to the annoyance of his well-to-do neighbours.

He spent most of his life in Plymouth, where his studio became a magnet for vagrants and drunks. He lived frugally and died in 2002, aged 60, leaving a £6.5m estate. He was married and divorced three times, leaving 11 children by several women.

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