Thomas Gleb (Yehouda Chaïm Kalman aka)

1912 1991
(Pologne) 1912 /   (France) 1991

Thomas GLEB (Yehouda Chaïm Kalman, aka)


Thomas Gleb grew up in a family of artisans and studied at a Yeshiva. Influenced by his father, who was a weaver, he took an interest in the Bible from a young age. When he was ten years old, he used to hide and draw, and dreamt of becoming a painter. He worked as a weaver, stamp engraver, and tailor. He followed the advice of painter Aron Haber Beron and attended the Start studio in Lodz, where he drew models from nature and discovered oil painting.

In 1932, he arrived in Paris and went by the name Thomas Gleb, following an article about “glebe” which was published on his painting. Since his debuts, Thomas Gleb seems to have been attracted to abstraction; however, his painting remained figurative. His childhood memories, his visits to the north of France, the coal mines and the French working life inspired his work. He acted as a retoucher of photographic portraits, and continued to paint in his free time.

He met his future wife Maria at an evening class in Rue de Paradis, where they were both learning French. Three years later, he designed costumes and sets for a Brussels troupe before leaving for Amsterdam.

In 1939, Gleb enlisted in the French army and then joined the Resistance. In 1944, he was arrested and imprisoned in Grenoble and in Lyon. He escaped from the train taking him to a concentration camp. In Poland, the Kalman family died in the Lodz ghetto.

He painted under several pseudonyms, including Raymond Thomas.

In 1945, he returned to Paris. Between 1950 and 1957, he stayed in Poland and visited Central Europe. Jean Cassou, curator at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, visited him in his studio in Warsaw.


Thomas Gleb returned to live in Paris permanently in 1957. From 1960, he discovered a new form of creation: tapestry work. His works produced before 1939 were destroyed by the Nazis.