Marcus Reichert obituary

Other lives: Artist and writer who made films with Debbie Harry and Mick Jagger

My friend Marcus Reichert, who has died aged 73, was an American painter and neo-noir film director who spent much of his life in Britain.

Marcus’s paintings reflected a darkly sophisticated vision. He painted a crucifixion series that was described by Richard Harries, when he was bishop of Oxford, as among the most disturbing painted in the 20th century, and the American critic Donald Kuspit wrote that Picasso’s and Bacon’s crucifixion paintings paled in comparison. Later works featured large vessels – vases and urns – filled with flowers and vines in a vivid and distinctive palette. Most recently he had explored the infinity symbol in a series of new paintings.

In film Marcus’s best known work was Union City (1980), starring Debbie Harry, which he wrote and directed, about a man who becomes so obsessed with someone stealing his milk bottles that it leads to grisly consequences. Just before Marcus’s death he had completed the principal photography for a new film – a second collaboration with Harry. Every effort is being made to ensure it will be completed and will reflect his vision of the elegant and the enigmatic.

Vase in Chartreuse, by Marcus Reichert, 2014
Vase in Chartreuse, by Marcus Reichert, 2014 Photograph: from family/UNKNOWN USE AT OWN RISK

Union City, and some of Marcus’s other, mostly short, film works are in the archive of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Wings of Ash: A Dramatization of the Life of Antonin Artaud (1978), featuring Mick Jagger, is one of the film, poetry and prose works held in the Marcus Reichert Archive at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris.

Marcus was also a poet, and the author of several novels, including The Miracle of Fontana’s Monkey (1997), Hoboken (2009) and the semi-autobiographical The Memoirs of Jerome Berger (2019).

Born in Bay Shore in New York state, Marcus was the son of Beatrice (nee Tiley), a teacher, and Rex Reichert, who ran his own advertising agency. After attending Collegeville-Trappe high school in Pennsylvania, he went to the Rhode Island School of Design, where he met Sally MacLeod, a fellow student, later a writer and photographer. They married in 1970.

Marcus primarily earned his living through the sale of his paintings and his writing. But he also excelled at rehabilitating old houses and, given his fine eye for elegance and style, was able to make a profit when he resold them.

He and Sally had many friends in Britain and felt a profound connection with the UK. In the early 1980s they moved initially to Islington, north London, and then to Hexham, in Northumberland, where Marcus continued to paint and write. For a short time they tried living back in the US, but they returned to the UK in the early 2000s and bought a beautiful old house in Ramsgate, Kent. In 2006, after selling up in Ramsgate, they moved to St Hippolyte-du-Fort, northwest of Nîmes in southern France.

A discerning and demanding character, Marcus had a talent for storytelling – both visual and verbal – and a charming yet often wicked wit.

He is survived by Sally and his sister, Melissa.

Henry Ralph Carse

The GuardianTramp

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