The Painter with Benedikte, 1988

Robert Lenkiewicz’s relationship with women has often been the subject of much discussion. One thing that is not contended was his fondness for the opposite sex. Alleged to have slept with more than three thousand women, it would be safe to say that he was a philanderer, because to him this kind of lifestyle was perfectly normal.

Aside from his many flings and conquests, Robert did have some stable relationships. His first marriage was to Celia Mills, the marriage producing two children, Alice and Wolfe. However, the move to the West Country and his involvement with other women put pressure on the marriage and they soon split up. Robert’s second marriage was to Keiko Nakamura from Japan, who needed some means of documentation in order to stay in Britain and study. They did not live together or have any children. Around this time he also had a relationship with Annie Hill-Smith, which produced three children, Kate, Yasha and Sholem. Robert’s third marriage was to Mary (originally called Gillian Pearce) in 1980. He spent much time and effort trying to convince the reluctant Mary to marry him, and ironically, as soon as she did the marriage killed the relationship for Mary, and they soon drifted apart. Robert’s courtship of Mary became the subject of a published portfolio, The Mary Notebook, which gives what is probably the best insight into Lenkiewicz’s striving for understanding of what falling in love involves. In 1982 Robert met his long-term partner, Karen Ciambriello, the woman who was to be his main partner for the remainder of his life. They did not marry, but had two children together, Thais and Chaya. Wives and lovers alike were frequent subjects of his paintings.

Though for Robert the distinction between model and lover was all-too-obviously not clear-cut, he nevertheless painted many women without there being sexual intimacy. He was just as interested in the quality of the artist-model relationship, to which end he included himself in many of his studies of women. This was frequently with the woman being naked or semi-naked and him in his trademark black smock and red scarf.