LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Bob Dylan once sang about how fine life would be when he had painted his masterpiece.
Now art collectors and fans have the chance to see 12 original canvas paintings by Dylan and to buy them — at an exhibition opening this weekend in London.
The paintings are based on drawings made while the singer/songwriter was on the road touring between 1989 and 1992. They depict a variety of scenes, some of which could have come straight out of one his songs.
“He travels a tremendous amount, he’s an observer of humanity, and these are his observations. Each of these paintings tells a story,” Paul Green, president of the Halcyon Gallery which is hosting the exhibition, told Reuters.
Dylan’s art has been exhibited before but these works — the final part of what is called “The Drawn Blank Series” — have not been seen before and offer the first opportunity to buy an original Dylan work.
Previous works were sold as limited edition prints.
They might be beyond the budget of the average Bob aficionado though. The least expensive is “Dad’s Restaurant” — a scene with a pickup truck parked outside a diner — at 95,000 pounds ($148,600).
The top-priced are two pictures called “Train Tracks” at 450,000 pounds. There’s no blood on the tracks though. Green explained that Dylan’s inspiration was a passing train that woke him up one night in a hotel room.
Critics have compared his style to Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Matisse. But does his work have much merit beyond the fame of its creator?
“I happen to think it’s truly valid. He’s been painting all his life. He’s an artist in every sense of the word,” Green said.
Professor Maurice Cockrill of the Royal Academy, praised the “vigorous brushwork” and the “brilliance and translucency of color.”
Dylan himself, in typically laconic style, is quoted in the exhibition notes as saying: “I just draw what’s interesting to me and then I paint it. Rows of houses, orchard acres, lines of tree trunks, could be anything. I can turn it into a life and death drama.”
Other paintings include depictions of a sidewalk cafe, a New York City apartment, and an amply-proportioned woman at the bar of the Red Lion pub.
“There’s often a loneliness. Very often there’s no-one in the picture,” Green said.
Dylan’s brushwork first appeared in the public eye in the late 1960s and early 1970s when he provided the cover art for the Band’s “Music from Big Pink” and his own albums “Self Portrait” and “Planet Waves.”
Later this year the National Museum of Denmark will stage a major exhibition of his sketches, drawings and paintings. In September, the Halcyon will show his series “Brazil,” conceived during his South American tour in 2008.
They are braced for a huge turn-out of fans when “Bob Dylan on Canvas” opens at the gallery in London’s Mayfair district on Saturday, Marketing Director Niki Gifford said.
The art show is just the latest event to feed the enduring fascination with Dylan, now aged 68. Only on Tuesday night, he played before U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House — the latest in hundreds of performances he has given in what has become known as the Never-Ending Tour.
In recent years, he has been hailed for his memoir “Chronicles,” won a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar and been the subject of a Martin Scorsese documentary.
His last four original albums - “Time Out of Mind,” “Love and Theft,” “Modern Times” and “Together Through Life” - have been critical and commercial successes.
His latest offering, a selection of Christmas songs with all proceeds going to the homeless, has only added to the enigma.
“Dylan works hard, When he’s not working, he wants to do something else,” Green said.
Editing by Paul Casciato