Behold The Paintings of David Bowie: Neo-Expressionist Self Portraits, Illustrations of Iggy Pop, and Much More

Would you believe that David Bowie, era-tran­scend­ing pop star, actor, and avid read­er, found not just the time to build a for­mi­da­ble art col­lec­tion (auc­tioned off for $41 mil­lion last year at Sothe­by’s), but to do quite a few paint­ings of his own? Even Bowie fans who know only his music will have seen one of those paint­ings, a self-por­trait which made the cov­er of his 1995 album Out­side. That same year he had his first show as a painter, “New Afro/Pagan and Work: 1975–1995,” at The Gallery, Cork Street.

“David Bowie paint­ings show a knowl­edge­able approach to art, influ­enced by Frank Auer­bach, David Bomberg, Fran­cis Bacon, Fran­cis Picabia…” says Very Pri­vate Gallery in a post on 25 of those works of art, adding that his style “also shows a touch of post-mod­ernism, more pre­cise­ly neo-expres­sion­ism move­ment.”

Com­pris­ing can­vas­es paint­ed between 1976 and 1996, the selec­tions include not just Bowie’s self-por­traits but depic­tions of such friends and asso­ciates as Iggy Pop, paint­ed in Berlin in 1978 just above, and pianist Mike Gar­son.

Bowieol­o­gists rec­og­nize his “Berlin era” in the late 1970s, which pro­duced the albums LowLodger, and “Heroes” (all to vary­ing degrees involv­ing the col­lab­o­ra­tion of Bri­an Eno) as an espe­cial­ly fruit­ful peri­od of his musi­cal career. But the gal­leries and muse­ums of the Ger­man cap­i­tal also wit­nessed Bowie’s first immer­sion into the world of visu­al art, both as an enthu­si­ast and as a cre­ator. The city even found its way into some of his paint­ings, such as 1977’s Child in Berlin above. “Heroes”, the final album of Bowie’s “Berlin tril­o­gy,” even inspired a bit of Bowie art­work, the self-por­trait sketch below mod­eled on the record’s famous cov­er pho­to by Masayoshi Suki­ta, itself inspired by Erich Heck­el’s 1917 paint­ing Roquairol.

But just as Bowie the musi­cian and per­former could­n’t stop seek­ing out and incor­po­rat­ing new influ­ences, so did Bowie the painter’s atten­tion con­tin­u­al­ly turn to new sub­ject mat­ter, includ­ing the mythol­o­gy of the tribes inhab­it­ing present-day South Africa. At Very Pri­vate Gallery you can see not just more of his fin­ished work but more of his sketch­es, includ­ing stud­ies of Hunger City, the the­mat­ic set­ting of his elab­o­rate Dia­mond Dogs tour as well as for a film planned, but nev­er actu­al­ly shot, in the mid-1970s. Despite the con­sid­er­able dif­fer­ence in medi­um between music and images, Bowie’s visu­al work still comes across clear­ly as Bowie’s work — espe­cial­ly a face drawn, true to ele­gant­ly nos­tal­gic form, on a pack of Gitanes.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

96 Draw­ings of David Bowie by the “World’s Best Com­ic Artists”: Michel Gondry, Kate Beat­on & More

The Art from David Bowie’s Final Album, Black­star, is Now Free for Fans to Down­load and Reuse

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

David Bowie Lists His 25 Favorite LPs in His Record Col­lec­tion: Stream Most of Them Free Online

The Sto­ry of Zig­gy Star­dust: How David Bowie Cre­at­ed the Char­ac­ter that Made Him Famous

David Bowie Offers Advice for Aspir­ing Artists: “Go a Lit­tle Out of Your Depth,” “Nev­er Ful­fill Oth­er People’s Expec­ta­tions”

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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