Eastbourne woman catalogues late husband’s hundreds of paintings

A woman from Eastbourne has spent much of lockdown sorting through more than 1,000 works of art by her late husband.

Monday, 28th June 2021, 12:31 pm

Willem Barbieri died suddenly in Old Town in October 2019 and left his wife Pauline his paintings, sketches and collages created during their life together.

Seventy-eight-year-old Pauline, a poet, has spent most of lockdown trying to catalogue and photograph the immense body of surrealist-inspired artwork left behind by Rotterdam born Willem which fills the home they once shared.

Mrs Barbieri told the Dutch News newspaper, “You couldn’t get into bed for the pictures. When one painting was finished, he just got up and started a new canvas.”

She said Willem kept his extraordinary talent hidden and even family, who rarely visited the shy artist and his wife, had no idea he had a huge cache of art.

Mr Barbieri refused to exhibit his paintings or take any money for them telling his wife, “My work is to paint, not to show.”

Inspired by Dali, Escher, Bosch, and Brueghel – as well as fellow Rotterdammer Johfra Bosschart – many of Mr Barbieri’s works are described as “combining dream-like visions with a fascination for energy, mechanics and movement”.

Mrs Barbieri, who is originally from Liverpool, said she was busy with her career, the house, and her own poetry and painting, and so found it hard to keep up with all his creations, something she says she regrets.


Now she is analysing the pictures and finding names for the many untitled works.

She hopes they may be repatriated to the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam but no deal has yet been struck.

“Most widows look at family albums,” said Mrs Barbieri, “but Willem’s works have become an unexpected way of rediscovering our story together.

“I now see how he saw our life,’ says Pauline.

“I see how much he must have admired me, which goes a long way to compensate for his loss.”