We are delighted to bring collectors more limited edition pieces by acclaimed actor and artist Johnny Depp.
The first pieces from his Friends & Heroes collection, released in July 2022, sold out in hours and there was so much interest in Johnny’s art debut that interest from collectors around the world crashed our website!
“I didn’t believe it, it didn’t make sense to me,” said Johnny about his triumph in a video interview with Castle Fine Art which you can see further down this page. “I’m obviously really touched that people wanted to look a little further outside of my day job as it were, investigating some of the imagery that interests me.
“I was very touched by that, especially as when you’re trying to give a personal touch to something, sparkles that you saw in their eyes, very simple little things. Hopefully it bought those friends and heroes of mine out in a way that I see them and the same with the second volume of Friends & Heroes”.
The iconic figures in this new collection are actors Heath Ledger and River Phoenix, musician Bob Marley and writer Hunter S Thompson, all of whom were either friends of Johnny, or an inspiration to him, thus adding a real emotional weight to the pieces. Working from photographic references, each image was stripped back to a simpler and iconic portrayal of the subject, which Johnny then developed and energised with his characteristic freehand flourishes.
“I’d like to see these four people together,” said Johnny about his new subjects in an interview with Castle Fine Art. “It would be fascinating. All legends absolutely. The early demise of Heath, the early demise of River, those are tragedies.
“They didn’t have enough time on this earth, but in the time that they did have, they certainly planted their individuality, their uniqueness, their world, their heart, their emotions, their sense of humour out there into the world so we know them. So they said a lot in their short lives.
“Hunter, of course, had a bit more time on the planet than some of those guys, and his voice will always live through his books as Heath and River will always live through their films, and Bob through his music.”
In his funeral eulogy for Heath Ledger, Johnny described him as a “thundering and ungovernable talent”, and this energy pours out from his portrait four-square and handsome, addressing the whole world head-on. But his eyes tell a different story. Sensitive and soulful, they reflect the character of a man who cared perhaps too much about his work, but had the subtlety and range to portray Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain and then the Joker in The Dark Knight.
Terry Gilliam originally introduced Heath to Johnny, saying: “You’ve got to meet this kid; he’s the next you”. Johnny met Heath, both characteristically shy at first, and hung out with him at the Venice Film Festival.
Heath’s tragic and unexpected death in the January of 2008 halfway through the filming of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus meant that after knowing Heath as a fellow actor and friend for nearly 10 years, Johnny suddenly found himself stepping into part of Heath’s role to help Terry Gilliam finish the film. Johnny considered it an honour to represent Heath, adding: “He was the only player out there breathing heavy down the back of every actor’s neck with a talent that came up on you quick, hissing rather mischievously with that cheeky grin, ‘Hey, get out of my way boys, I’m coming through’ - and does he ever”.
Johnny named a beautiful cove at his Caribbean island home in Heath’s honour. “After he died, I thought his family could use some time away from the madness, so they spent a good chunk of time here. There’s a spot that we call Heath’s Place”.
Photographer: Stephanie Pfriender Stylander
Possessed with the beauty of a teen heartthrob and the warm gaze of quiet nobility, Johnny portrays River as a person of great talent and even greater integrity – he was an ardent environmentalist and a vegetarian from the age of eight who became a devout vegan. His extraordinary talent earned him an Academy Award nomination for his role as the son of the counterculture couple in Running on Empty, and allowed him to handle the weighty, complex role of a street hustler in My Own Private Idaho.
It’s not surprising that Johnny and Phoenix were good friends. Both had experienced a similar bohemian, itinerant childhood, and both loved music, playing in bands alongside their acting. River Phoenix had started work on Dark Blood in 1993 when tragedy struck and the world mourned the untimely passing of the highly talented young star.
Photographer: Nancy Schiff
With the unblinking gaze of a dreamer and a profoundly sincere man, Bob Marley was blessed with the eyes of a prophet. With his head slightly tilted and his attentive expression, we see a sensitive individual who listens and cares; a man who has a mission to send a message to the world who abhors violence and confrontation.
Johnny never met Bob, but admired him greatly from afar, thinking of him as one of the two great prophets of his generation, alongside Bob Dylan. Growing up in the ghetto of Trench Town in Jamaica, Marley had experienced oppression from the inside and from his very beginning. While he was vocal about poverty, violence and injustice, he was never angry. He cried out for dignity and hope. As he expressed it: “I have only one thing I really want to see happen. I like to see mankind live together - black, white, Chinese, everyone - that’s all.” Marley risked his life to say the things he believed, making the messages in his songs among the most authentic in contemporary music.
Photograph: Getty Images
Behind his essential accessories of yellow-tinted Aviator sunglasses and a lit cigarette in a holder, Hunter’s strength of character erupts from the canvas, for here we find a profile hewn from rock, imbued with the stern gaze of a confident and challenging intellect. Standing six foot three and full of muscle, with his larger than life personality, Hunter surely delivered on his nickname of The Colonel. The “dark laughter” quote captures his often-enigmatic writing and is emblematic of his importance as a writer whose effect on journalism was nothing short of transcendent.
Johnny first met Hunter in 1994 and the two immediately hit it off and developed a relationship based on trust, admiration for each other’s work and a shared liking for madcap antics. They would regularly meet at Hunter’s farm to chew the fat, shoot his guns and talk about literature, life and the universe.
Prior to filming Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Johnny lived with Hunter for many months to study the writer and his mannerisms for his role as Hunter’s alter ego in the film. The friendship was so close that Hunter would always refer to the guest room where Johnny stayed as ‘Johnny’s Room’.
In 2005, as a response to health problems, Hunter decided to make his earthly exit. However, prior to his mortal departure, Thompson had devised an elaborate funeral ceremony which Johnny funded and implemented, “To make sure his last wish came true”, adding: “I just want to send my old pal out the way he wants to go out”. This meant Thompson’s ashes being blasted out of a cannon at the top of a 153-foot tower, accompanied by a firework display, whilst Dylan’s iconic Mr Tambourine Man reverberated throughout the night air.
Photographer: Michael O'Neill
For Johnny Depp there has always been art. Before acting, and before music, art has always been an important outlet for his creativity. His artistic restlessness and exploration know no bounds, and he has consciously embarked upon a renaissance that allows his life to be filled with that which fulfils him. Depp has, for many years, established himself as an art collector of great merit, with some of the world’s most coveted names in contemporary art in his private collection. From Basquiat to Banksy, Depp has amassed an eminently credible portfolio that demonstrates his love for visual art.
These new additions to his Friends & Heroes collection from the notable actor, musician and artist are again stylistically bold and intensely individual and see Depp depict people he has known well or who have inspired him as a person. Each image is an intimate reflection of their character in Johnny’s eyes; a portrayal of how they have revealed themselves to him, either personally or via their art.
He explained: “For many years I really held myself strictly to just the day job of the film business, even though in my heart and forever I’ve been a musician, and I’ve always needed to escape into a blank piece of paper, whether it be writing, drawing or painting a blank canvas. Tackling something for the first time with no idea of what’s about to commence and what it will come out to be is deeply fulfilling.
“When I just decided not to limit myself any more and go public with my art, I thought that if people go for it that’s great and if not, that’s alright too. But the fact that it seemed for the most part to be a very positive reaction to these strange things I have put on canvas. Art has always been part of my life, so for people to actually see this stuff now for the first time, to react the way that they have so positively to whatever I have made is very moving. I am glad they are interested.
“The first time I ever saw them all together presented at Castle Fine Art (Johnny’s first pieces were Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Elizabeth Taylor and Al Pacino) there was something kind of lyrical. I felt the relationship between them all for the first time and the feeling was a lot stronger that I imagined it would be. Primarily what I liked about it was how they all worked together.
“So I was really looking forward to having another crack at it with other friends and heroes. Simply for me to be able to say thank you to all those people for having either been in my life, been a part of my life or having affected me to the degree that they have”.
Enquire here for exclusive original artworks from Johnny Depp.
28/07/2022For Johnny Depp there has always been art. Before acting, and before music, art has always been an important outlet for his creativity. While his acting repertoire is the foundation for his fame, the recent reception to his music with Jeff Beck has encouraged him, and emboldened him, to share his art.
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