François Beaucourt (1740–1794) and His Context
Back in his home environment, overview of his relationship with the theater circles and the Academy of Painting in Bordeaux and a focus on his membership in Freemasonry
In 1979, Madeleine Major Frégeau published the first lengthy study on the painter François Beaucourt (1740–94), a native of La Prairie, near Montreal. Beaucourt began his career in Bordeaux, France in the 1770s; he then lived in the West Indies but spent the latter part of his life in Montreal. Since the appearance of this monograph, there has been a particularly thorough analysis of his Canadian work. My concern here is to better situate the painter within his social and professional milieu over the course of his career by focusing on his various affiliations and alliances. This article describes his family environment in Canada, then his involvement with the theatre in Bordeaux, France and its connections with his father-in-law. The text also considers the scope of Beaucourt's relations with members of the Académie de peinture, sculpture et architecture civile et navale de Bordeaux and in particular, those painters and architects who worked in the decorative arts or who were affiliated with Freemasonry. Although Beaucourt was a Freemason, it is not known whether he was initiated in France or in the West Indies after 1785. It is certain, however, that in 1788, he was a member of a lodge in Cap Français in the colony of Saint Domingue (now Haiti). After considering the reasons for his departure to the islands and his subsequent return to Canada, there is an examination Beaucourt's Canadian work through the analysis of nine paintings, which originally showed his Masonic signature of three dots in the shape of a triangle. While Freemasons of the Grand Lodge of France had used this type of signature, what is its significance in these nine portraits and religious paintings? Did it seal a pact of mutual recognition between the painter and his Freemason sponsors, or did Beaucourt use it as a way of making himself known and to better integrate himself into his native country where he was now a stranger?