Paul Hémery (1921-2006)
Exhibition from 22 June to 1 September 2024
Paul Hémery, although he was born in Tourcoing, is one of the important figures of the Roubaix Group, an informal gathering of friends, painters and sculptors, who started their artistic career at the Salon des Artistes Roubaisiens (Roubaix artist salons) and in the galleries of the city. Together, they introduced the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region to contemporary art in the years following the Second World War.
It was in Bruges, from a very young age, that Paul Hémery tried his hand at painting, which he began to take seriously,
teaching himself at the end of the war, and exhibiting his works at the Salon des Artistes Roubaisiens from 1949. In 1953, he organised an exhibition at the Louis Parenthou gallery in the company of Jean-Robert Debock, Jean Roulland and Michel Delporte, with whom he forged a strong friendship. In 1954, he participated in the Twelve painters exhibition at the Dujardin gallery, which was the group’s first exhibition. In 1955, he relocated to Mouvaux bringing him closer to his elder companions, the painters René Jacob and Maurice Maes, who were keen to help the younger generation of artists. The same year, the Tourcoing museum gave him the chance to display his works along with Delporte, while the Dujardin gallery presented his works in 1956. The gallery owner Léon Renar, who Paul Hémery encouraged to open a gallery, defended the painter’s work in several personal exhibitions in 1961, 1962, 1964 and 1966.
He was supported at this time by the textile industrialist and collector Philippe Leclercq, and joined later by Anne and Albert Prouvost, at the head of Peignage Amédée Prouvost in Roubaix, who would become real patrons. They offered him a workshop in the Ferme des Marguerites, located on their estate and Hémery soon submitted to them the idea of opening an exhibition space there: Septentrion, the arts centre of Bondues-Marcq, was opened some time later, to host numerous exhibitions. In 1970, he received the commission from his patrons for a monumental decorative work covering 100 m2, The Birth of Light, painted and installed in the Peignage workshops. It was bought in 1997 by the Roubaix town hall after Le Peignage was closed and relocated to the Grand-Place metro station which was about to open. The artist quit his job as a police officer in Tourcoing, which he had held until then, to devote himself to painting. Fascinated by the collection of minerals put together by the Prouvosts, it gave him the inspiration to create abstract paintings. It was the beginning of his mineral period which he presented in Paris in the Henri Bénézit gallery in 1972. After this, his personal journey took him back and forth between figurative and abstract art, switching from pastels to twilight visions and later returning to oil with colourful compositions influenced by jazz rhythms.
Over time, La Piscine has gathered together a highly reputed collection thanks to various donations, but above all the legacy granted by the friend of the museum, the painter Michel Delporte in 2001, and thanks to the generosity of the artist himself in 2000 and 2002. Consequently, the museum is aiming to rediscover a key figure who is very important yet not well-known in the post-war artistic landscape of the north of France.
Commission: Germain Hirselj, art historian.
The design was made possible thanks to generous support from the paints distributed by Tollens.
Private viewing Friday 21 June 2024 from 6pm
Key: Paul Hémery (1921-2006), Winter, 1959. Oil on canvas. 69.5 x 50.4 cm.
La Piscine – musée d’art et d’industrie André Diligent (André Diligent art and Industry Museum) Donation of the artist in 2000.
Photo: Alain Leprince