Leonard Cohen, Previously Sold Artwork
Leonard Cohen was born on September 21, 1934, in Montreal` He learned to play the guitar as a teenager, and as a young student, began to write poetry and novels. Another creative outlet was visual art – in particular, sketching and drawing which had been interests since childhood. At the age of 21, not long after graduating from McGill University, Cohen decided to move to New York City where he would eventually become involved in the Greenwich Village folk music scene.
In 1960, Cohen purchased a home on the Greek island of Hydra, after learning of the island’s thriving expat artist community. He was immediately attracted to the simple way of life on this picturesque island in the Mediterranean, with no cars and limited electricity. Living on the island with his young children, Cohen often made drawing an important family activity around the kitchen table. He also joined the vibrant community of artists that met regularly at a small grocery store on the harbour. This little shop would become the venue for his first formal concert.
Whatever his circumstance, Cohen continued to draw and paint as an important part of his creative practice. His preferred art media ran the gamut from watercolour to oil pastels to charcoal. When art critic Robert Enright, in his article “Face Value - The Arts of Leonard Cohen” (Border Crossings Magazine, issue 104), asked how his visual art functions in the context of his poetry, song writing and performing, Cohen responded simply: “I think one is relief from the other.” In describing his art practice, Mr. Cohen lyrically writes:
From a mirror on my desk
In the very early morning
I copied down
Hundreds of self-portraits
Which reminded me of one thing or another.
Until recently, his drawings and paintings have been private visual records of things, places, and people, captured with his sure and modest hand. Over the years his visual imagery has found its way onto CD covers and more recently onto the pages of Book of Longing (New York: Harper Collins, 2006). These personal images are now part of our exhibition, Leonard Cohen: The Poet. The Painter, a visual record of 40 years.