Paul Duhem

Belgium, 1919-1999

Paul Duhem was born in Blandain, Belgium, in 1919.
He left school aged 13 and became a farm labourer, having learnt only the basic skills of reading and writing. His workmates encouraged him to driknk alcohol and, though industrious, Duhem became rebellious and aggressive.
During World War II he spent two years laying railways in Germany. On his return to Belgium he was jailed as a collaborator but was subsequently transferred to Les Marronniers psychiatric unit in Tournai. The need for agricultural workers in post-war Belgium led to his discharge and he again became a farm hand.
In 1978 he moved into La Pommeraie Centre in Ellignies-Sainte-Anne, a home for adults with learning difficulties, where he spent a contented twelve years tending the garden. At the age of 70 he began to paint and attended the creative workshop at La Pommeraie enthusiastically until his death ten years later.
Duhem worked with ink, pastel, oil pastel and paint on paper, producing numerous images of male figures which, despite the apparent similarity, reveal different hidden emotions. Doors also often appear in his visual vocabulary, while birds and windmills appear secondary (produced in 1995).