About the artist
Robert Heindel (US 1938 – 2005)
Born 1938 in Toledo, Ohio, drawing and painting were a natural talent that he instinctively knew to pursue. At the age of 16 he enrolled in The Famous Artists School, eventually to become one of its most celebrated graduates. Whilst following the FAS course by correspondence, like many young artists, he found work in art studios including that as a staff artist at Coen & Foger in Toledo. Those early studio experiences combined the discipline required to maintain the FAS course proved a valuable training for what became a highly successful career in commercial illustration and later working to exhibition schedules for fine art galleries around the world.
His career in the world of illustration took him from Toledo to Akron, Denver, Detroit and eventually to be represented by one of the top agencies in New York. His work was seen across America in leading magazines such a TIME and Sports Illustrated which in turn increased the demand and awareness of R.Heindel. He won several prizes during this period of his career including, in 1982, The Hamilton King Award from The Society of Illustrators (New York); in 2011 he was posthumously inducted into the society’s Hall of Fame for ‘distinguished achievement in the art of illustration’. Work from this period also gained a place in the collection of The Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.
In 1983 he was introduced to the partners of a London based gallery, their connections in the ballet world were strong and thus doors were opened.. The Royal Ballet in Covent Garden, Rambert Dance Company, London City Ballet and London Festival Ballet (later English National Ballet). Thus in 1985 one of the artist’s greatest ambitions was realized, that of staging a one-man exhibition in London. ‘The Obsession of Dance’ staged in The Royal Festival Hall and opened by H.R.H Princess Margaret – Countess of Snowden, comprised a mix of 140 paintings, color studies and sketches. Heindel had certainly immersed himself in that new found focus from which many of the familiar names in British ballet found themselves represented on canvas; Sir Frederick Ashton, Monica Mason, Marguerite Porter, Merle Park, Anthony Dowell and Wayne Eagling – therein the then current artistic director of The Royal Ballet (Sir Frederick Ashton) and two future holders of that prized position.
Of particular significance was a spirited oil of Sir Frederick Ashton which was painted to celebrate the choreographers eightieth year – the painting ‘Sir Fred’ is now in the collection of The National Portrait Gallery, London.
‘Sometimes, during the weary hours of rehearsal, the last thing a dancer needs is an intruder with a sketch book or camera recording all the trials and secret worries that we all have whilst trying to accomplish the impossible. Robert Heindel, apart from being one of the most courteous and charming of men, manages to camouflage himself into the studio setting, somehow hiding his ‘spying’ eyes. Many silent photos later, and after the magic process has taken place in his studio, one is presented with not only a true image of oneself but with a beautiful study and record of the private moments that one thought had been hidden.’
Sir Anthony Dowell (Director, Royal Ballet. 1986 – 2001)
Amongst Heindel’s audience at The Royal Festival Hall was Andrew Lloyd Webber. The composer’s enthusiasm for the collection prompted a request for Heindel to observe and paint what was the already well-established musical, ‘CATS’. Allied to this was an invitation to observe the rehearsal period for what was to become a worldwide theatrical phenomenon, ‘The Phantom of The Opera’. ‘CATS’ provided the artist with opportunity to capture dance and movement in his inimitable style with such paintings as ‘The Jellicle Ball’ and ‘Victoria, The White Cat’. ‘Phantom’ was an altogether different proposition – almost pure musical theatre. For Heindel that was the challenge, to apprehend the spirit of ‘The Phantom’. The resulting series of sketches and paintings focused almost wholly upon the two main characters, Sarah Brightman in the role of Christine and Michael Crawford in that of The Phantom. The complete collection, twelve months work, was exhibited in The New London Theatre in the spring of 1987.
'As a performer and one who is very aware of the toil that goes into a production before curtain up, I am confounded by the emotions that Robert’s sketches and paintings of The Phantom stir in me. When I look at them I am transported to an exact moment in time that I can recall so clearly. The sketches are very immediate; perhaps that is why they are so telling. The paintings are certainly theatrical, conveying as they do, atmosphere and presence – they are performances in themselves.’
Michael Crawford - Actor
With the Lloyd Webber project complete, the artist had decided to return to the world of ballet, as fortune had it he had received an invitation from Monte Carlo Ballet. After several trips to The Principality the completed works were displayed in the salons of The Hotel de Paris where in December 1987 Princess Caroline opened the exhibition ‘L’Obsession de la Dance’. Two of the artist’s signature paintings formed part of that collection; ‘The Illumination’ captured a dancer in black against a black back drop, a beam of light touching her head and shoulders in dramatic style. The second painting entitled ‘The Wall’ featured five dancers at the practice barre, isolated as individuals but part of one harmonious image. Ironically neither painting sold in Monte Carlo and yet within a few months they were and in time have become amongst the most recognized and reproduced.
Autumn 1988 heralded the artist’s second major exhibition at The Royal Festival Hall in London. For this project he had chosen to develop a series or works from a one act ballet ‘The Garden of Eros’ performed by London City Ballet. Heindel was instrumental in the commissioning of the ballet itself, his friend and former Royal Ballet principal Marguerite Porter choreographed the piece. The venture gave him the facility to see a ballet created from concept to first night. Patron of London City Ballet at that time was Diana, Princess of Wales who was the artist’s distinguished guest at The Royal Festival Hall.
‘Experts hold your work in the highest regards, I know, but for me it simply succeeds in capturing the spirit of dance as art’
Diana, Princess of Wales
In 1990 as part of Glasgow’s European City of Culture celebrations the Scottish Ballet asked Heindel to observe and record their company, in hindsight the collection represented a new focus and one that was the most personal of outpourings onto the canvas. With the success of his figurative works to that period, Heindel was eager to explore ‘beyond’ the pure human form whilst still in retaining a dance link. In the few months before embarong upon his ‘Scottish Shadows’ series (Scottish Ballet inspired work) he had experimented with paintings entitled ‘Floormarks’. In those paintings, around twenty in total, he examined, recorded and built upon observations of actual dance floors. For him the wooden boards held a history of all dance and rehearsal that had occurred upon them. The scuffs and scrapes, tape marks and lines were elevated to a finished art form, a painting that at first appeared abstract but for the explanation. With the experience of the ‘Floormarks’ fresh he used such devices to give the following dance paintings more depth and, in part, abstraction. Added to this he started to dwell upon the dancers shadow cast by spotlight onto the floor before them and thus many of the Scottish Ballet works are dominated by strong, dark forms that stretch across the canvases. A disturbing truth was being handled behind these silhouettes, for during that period Heindel’s eldest son, Toby, was dying of cancer. That experience was profound, impacting upon the paintings as it continued to do so in subsequent years. It was the intensely emotional pas de deux ‘Belong’, from the ballet ‘What to do ‘til The Messiah comes’, performed by Scottish Ballet, that paralleled Heindel’s own emotional state. The resulting works ‘Waiting For The Messiah’ (I – IV) are amongst his most emotive.
During 1992 the artist’s first solo exhibition in Tokyo was staged, this was an introduction that was to, once again, have as major impact upon what he created in the ensuing years. What Heindel saw on this first visit left him eager to see more. An invitation to observe preparations, rehearsal and performance of both Noh Theatre and Kabuki was rather an honour for this western artist. His impressions of the two traditional art forms were to be the central suite in what was his second major Japanese exhibition in 1995.
In the early 1990’s a friend sent Heindel a recording of a rather unusual production ‘Still Life’ at The Penguin Café. Intrigued, the artist was subsequently invited by Anthony Dowell to observe both rehearsals and performance of ‘Still Life’ during the Royal Ballet’s spring season in 1993.
‘The ballet echoes so much of the ecological unease of today’s world within a distinctive structure of sound and vision, pure spectacle! It was perfect for me in the sense that, whilst using dance, I could investigate other issues within my work; the tender vulnerability of species juxtaposed to the brutality of nature. I found myself recalling scenes I had witnessed on the African plains where the simple facts of life, courtship and death are so perfectly focussed. I am personally fascinated by the fact that man’s so called advancement results in the destruction of nature which is ultimately rebounding…my paramount concern however was whether I could bring a further, worthy, facet to an already brilliant collaboration between Choreographer, Composer and Costume Designer’
The collection was greeted with public and critical acclaim when it was unveiled in Cork Street, London. One particular observer and critic, a former dancer himself, wrote;
…while losing none of the dip and sway of the dance; Heindel’s painting has entered a new, weightier phase. Like any works of art, his pictures are sonorous with intelligence, the truth as he sees it and life’s beautiful and frustrating contradictions. Thankfully, he makes no attempt to solve them for us, he just provokes the question. And stirs in one observer at least, half-forgotten memories of a previous life.
Jeffery Taylor – Critic
The chance discovery of ‘Still Life’ brought with it the awareness of the choreography and ballets of David Bintley. Thus when Bintley approached Heindel with the request to design set and costumes for a new ballet entitled ‘The Dance House’ the artist took little time to accept. ‘The Dance House’ was to be loosely based around a medieval woodcut. Heindel visualized striking costumes as well as a series of conceptual and literal sets in response to the final line of the woodcut, ’Ye all must to the Dance House go’ in order to realize Bintley’s wish to make the performance a celebration of life and death..
Just as with ‘The Garden of Eros’ so ‘Dance House’ gave Heindel the chance to be part of the making of a ballet and, with the Bintley piece, a perfect opportunity to sketch and paint dancers in costumes he had designed against the set he envisaged.
Originally commissioned for San Francisco Ballet, the collection of paintings after the ballet were exhibited in 1995 at the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright building (Circle Gallery) in San Francisco.
Whilst the desire to paint figures continued to the end of his life, during the mid-1990’s Heindel found a need to experiment with shape, form and color as he had never before. This complete departure from dance was conveniently tagged ‘Painted Walls’. Whilst the first of these panels did indeed resemble the work found in parts of east and west Africa as domestic wall decoration, the concept evolved and results resembled avant-garde stage backdrops, others appeared pure abstract and eventually as immediate response to personal or world events.
‘Painted Walls started out as a real indulgence, I just had the need to create something for myself in a totally new way, the enjoyment turned to captivation. I realize I’m outpouring my conscious and sub-conscious thoughts with these walls. They seize my energies, I have no preconceived idea of their physical destiny, all I can say is I simply paint them for my own sake’
The ‘Painted Wall’ series was a theme the artist returned to throughout the rest of his life, they often served as a diversion from the dance or indeed a reorientation. What is certain is the fact that elements of the wall series appeared in subsequent dance pieces where a dancer or dancers were set against dark fields of abstract form or colourful elements, incredible horizons or dark foreboding chasms.
In a broad period that spanned 1995 to 2005, two definite sources are evident;
The Ballets of David Bintley and Japanese Dance of both contemporary and classic style.
The friendship that Heindel enjoyed of Bintley, developed from the earlier experiences of ‘Still Life’ and ‘The Dance House’ resulted in an almost free and open access to everything Bintley was involved with. This of course meant new works as well as then existing ballets. ‘Carmina Burana’ ‘The Protecting Veil’ both featured in important bodies of work. ‘Arthur’ was also commissioned by Birmingham Royal Ballet, and choreographed by David Bintley. Part I (Arthur Pendragon) and Part II (Le Mort d'Arthur) are both full-length ballets, and have occasionally been performed in one day, Part I in the afternoon and Part II in the evening. For Heindel, the chance to be at the beginning of the interpretation of this legend was, in his own words ‘just perfect’.
‘Towards the end of his creative life Bob painted a series based upon my epic ballet ‘Arthur’. It represents the largest body of work he ever devoted to one piece and, in my opinion, is the most disconcerting and enigmatic collection of pictures he ever produced.’
David Bintley (Director, Birmingham Royal Ballet. 1985 - )
As for Japanese Ballet, the introductions he enjoyed in Japan once again gave him the kind of access that he so relished, the anguish and frustrations of rehearsal, the reality of illusion and the making of a performance from an idea to curtain call. Two projects in particular were the focus of subsequent exhibitions; ‘Junction’ and H. Art Chaos. ‘Junction’ allowed him to follow dancer Sobi Sasaki as she worked with the choreographer Toru Shimazaki and composer Taro Hakase in the development of a dynamic modern piece which was premiered in Tokyo.
Art Chaos, an all-female modern troupe caught Heindel’s imagination with their virtuosic dancing, narrative structure, and daring barrel rolls, back flips and extended balances. In particular their piece ‘Secret Club – Floating Angels 2000’, which he saw in both Tokyo and New York, took his imagination. The silver stage upon which Angels was performed, the cue for the silver wings within the completed works – the energetic and daring paintings are in complete contrast to the precision and realism of those from Covent Garden some two decades prior.
An thus, as David Bintley is often quoted, that Robert Heindel was the ‘greatest painter of Dance since Degas’ so the pages ahead will provide the evidence to substantiate his claim. What is certain is the fact that Heindel has left a record of dance in its many forms as created, rehearsed and performed in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, surely in time this extensive and, for this writer, exciting body of work, will serve as both a visual and academic reference for future lovers of dance and art.
The Stable Gallery – London, UK 1984
The Royal Opera House – London, UK 1985
The Royal Festival Hall – London, UK 1985/86
New London Theatre – London, UK 1987
Hotel de Paris – Monte Carlo, MC 1987/88
The Royal Festival Hall – London, UK 1988
The Royal Academy of Dance & The Royal Opera House – London, UK 1990
William Hardie Gallery – Glasgow, Scotland 1990
The Stable Gallery – London, UK 1991
The Halcyon Gallery – Birmingham, UK 1991
The Barbican Centre – London, UK 1992
Halcyon Gallery – London, UK 1993
Princes Square – Glasgow, Scotland 1994
The Obsession of Art – Heiloo, NL 1994
The Gallery in Cork Street – London, UK 1995
The Halcyon Gallery – Birmingham, UK 1995
The Gallery in Cork Street – London, UK 1996
The Obsession of Art – Heiloo, NL 1998
The Halcyon Gallery – Birmingham, UK 1998
The Gallery in Cork Street – London, UK 1999
The Obsession of Art – Bergen, NL 2000
The Halcyon Gallery – London, UK 2001
The Obsession of Art – Bergen, NL 2002
The Halcyon Gallery – London, UK 2003
Princes Square – Glasgow, Scotland 2003
The Obsession of Art – Bergen, NL 2003
The Halcyon Gallery – London, UK 2004
The Obsession of Art – Bergen, NL 2004
The Obsession of Art – Bergen, NL 2005
Princes Square – Glasgow, Scotland 2005
SOLO EXHIBITIONS IN USA
American Illustrators Gallery – Atlanta, GA 1979
Westport, West Gallery - Kansas City, MO 1980
The Vineyard Gallery – Dallas, TX 1981
The Smithsonian Institute – Washington D.C. 1981
The Vineyard Gallery – Dallas, TX 1982
Gallery One – San Francisco, CA 1983
Closson Gallery – Cincinnati, OH 1984
Closson Gallery – Cincinnati, OH 1987
Gallery at The Lincoln Center – New York, NY 1989
Fairfield University, CT, ‘Artist of The Year’ 1993
Circle Gallery – San Francisco, CA 1995
Richard MacDonald Galleries – San Francisco, CA 1998
Richard MacDonald Galleries – Laguna Beach, CA 1999
Richard MacDonald Galleries – San Francisco, CA 2000
Richard MacDonald Galleries – San Francisco, CA 2001
Richard MacDonald Galleries – Laguna Beach, CA 2002/03
SOLO EXHIBITIONS IN JAPAN
Takashimaya Gallery – Tokyo 1992
Hankyu Gallery – Tokyo 1995
Seibu Shibuya – Tokyo 1997
Mitsukoshi – Nagoya 1999
Mitsukoshi, Nihonbashi – Tokyo 1999
Mitsukoshi, Nihonbashi – Tokyo 2001
Shibuya Bunkamura – Tokyo 2002
Isetan – Tokyo 2002
Mitsukoshi, Nihonbashi – Tokyo 2003
Matsuzakaya – Nagoya 2003
Sakata City Museum – Sakata 2003
Hillside Forum, Daikanyama – Tokyo 2004
Matsuzakaya – Nagoya 2005
- The National Portait Gallery (Londen-UK)
- Glasgow Museums (Scotland)
- The Smithsonian Institute (Washington-US)
- Nagasaki Art Museum Japan
- Sakata City Museum of Art Tokyo
- White Lodge Museum, Richmond park, London (UK)
- The Norman Rockwell Museum Massachusetts US
- 2011 Hall of Fame (collection ’60s – ’70s)
Robert Heindel’s work features in the collections of:
Diana, Princess of Wales
The Royal Highness Prices Margaret
H.I.H. Price Takamado of Japan
SAS The Princes Caroline of Monaco
Lord Andrew Lloyd Weber. London
Lord Rothermere, London
Sir Anthony Dowell, London
Mr. Michael Crawford, OBE, London
Mr. George Lucas, SF (USA)
Mr. Cameron Mackintosh, London
Mr. Harold Prince, NY
Mr David Bintley , CBE, London
Ms. Sarah Brightman, London
Miss Darcey bussel, London
Miss Viviana durante, London,
Ms. Monica Mason, London,
Ms. Gillian Lyanne, London
Mr and Ms Hendriks the Netherlands
B.F. Goodrich company, Akron
Chrysler Cooperation, Detroit
Colombia Pictures, Los Angeles
Mr. and Ms van Zoelen, NL
Dow Jones Inc. NY
Ford motor Company. Detroit
Goodyear rubber company, Akron
Manufacturers Hanover Bank, NY
Quatar Oil Cooperation, NY
Reader Digest Inc. NY
Royal Festival Hall, Seth bank Centre, London
Sitmar Cruise Line, LA
The Grace Company, NY
The Ladd company, NY
Time Inc., NY
United Artists, NY
Royal academy of Dance, London
Art Obsession Inc. Japan
The Obsession of Art, NL
Halcyon Gallery, London