First published: Summer 2001
Paul Humphrey often recounted how, in 1987, with time on his hands as he recuperated from the flu, he made his first drawing by copying what he said was his daughter’s high-school graduation photo. Humphrey was 57 at the time, and referred to himself as ‘the Old Codger.’ Over the next 12 years he produced hundreds of images of sleeping women that he called ‘Sleeping Beauties.’
Humphrey died June 5th, 1999 after years of financial struggles and poor health. At that point, his life and art became a confusing mystery, and the entire story may never be known.
Over the years, Humphrey told stories of his past and present that supported a very convincing picture of his day-to-day life. But at his memorial service, these stories began to deconstruct as it was revealed that most of his reminiscences about family and friends were simply part of a myth he had concocted to fill his loneliness.
His daughter, her husband and two children, two sisters in Philadelphia, three divorced wives, and the various individuals on whom Humphrey seemed to rely for his endless care and numerous errands, were merely fictitious characters that he had masterfully integrated into his daily life. A twist of irony and a good measure of authenticity were added to the myth by a group of characters he had befriended during his days on the streets of Burlington, Vermont.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #35