Paul Duhem (1919-1999)
Paul Duhem had been institutionalized for more than 40 years and was well into his seventies when he established a grueling quota for himself. He made up his mind that he wanted to produce six artworks a day, every day, for the remainder of his life. Each morning after taking breakfast at a hospital for mental patients in southern Belgium, he brought out his crayons and jars of paint and crayons and, in the three or four hours before lunch, produced three new drawings. Then, in the hours between lunch time and dinner, he turned out three more works. Duhem’s subjects mostly took just two forms — a sad-eyed homme whom everybody understood to be Paul himself, and also the locked doors that he encountered everywhere in the mental institution. Duhem was born in Blandain, a farming region. Because his parents were too poor to care for all their children, he was mostly raised by grandparents. He attended school until his fourteenth year, and then left to work on a farm. Duhem was serving in theBelgium Army during World War II when, after being wounded and suffering shell shock, he was taken captive and held for two years in a German concentration camp. Duhem finally resumed the life of a farmhand, but the war and prison years had taken a toll on his mentalstability. Diagnosed as schizophrenic, he was admitted to a mental institution in 1977. Because of his years as a farm worker, Duhem was given assignments as a gardener and groundskeeper at the institution. In 1990, after beginning to show fragility of health, he was retired as a day worker. Soon after, he started producing colored drawings, at first turning out works with a variety of subjects, including birds, floral still-lifes and windmills, and then gradually limited his art to his own visage and the locked doors. He was 81 when he died in the summer of 1999. Duhem’s work is widely admired art brut enthusiasts today, and is to be found in nearly every significant museum collection of art brut in Europe.
(source: Outsider Art on facebook)