Retour sur son milieu familial, aperçu de ses rapports avec les cercles du théâtre et de l'Académie de peinture à Bordeaux et mise au point sur son affiliation à la franc-maçonnerie Depuis la publication de la monographie de Madeleine Major Frégeau sur François Beaucourt en 1979, on a surtout approfondi l'analyse de l'œuvre canadien de ce peintre qui commença sa carrière en France. Si l'acquisition du portrait de Margaret Robertson Sutherland par le Musée royal de l'Ontario a fait découvrir, en 1988, un autre aspect de la production canadienne de Beaucourt, en ouvrant une fenêtre sur ses rapports avec la bourgeoisie anglophone de Montréal, que dire de l'achat récent par le Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal d'un portrait d'homme, dont le libellé de la signature nous apprend qu'il a été peint au Cap-Français (actuel Cap-Haïtien), dans la partie française de l'île de Saint-Domingue (actuel Haïti). Avec son portrait d'une esclave noire, La Négresse, de 1786, c'est donc le deuxième tableau connu de Beaucourt qui nous situe dans les Antilles. Auparavant, le peintre s'était signalé pour la dernière fois à Bordeaux, au mois de décembre 1784, au moment où il annonçait son départ prochain pour les Amériques à ses confrères de l'Académie de peinture, sculpture et architecture civile et navale de Bordeaux (désormais, Académie de peinture de Bordeaux). Or, cette ville n'était pas seulement la capitale du gouvernement de l'ancienne province française, qui regroupait la Guyenne, la Gascogne, la Saintonge, le Limousin et le Béarn, mais un grand centre commercial et portuaire où transitait le gros des importations de sucre, de café, d'indigo et de coton en provenance des îles Sous-le-Vent.
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?
Some of Canada's early twentieth-century museum-based anthropologists promoted vitalist notions in their new social science discipline, attempting to "humanize" the rigours of working within an emerging field modeled on the natural sciences. In the case of Marius Barbeau (1883–1969), vitalism seems to have significantly facilitated his collaborations with various Canadian modernist artists. Not only did Barbeau understand and valorize their work in vitalist terms, but the artists themselves seem to have been in accord, to some extent, with a variety of vitalist concepts about matter, memory and re-presentation.
The role of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) is to commemorate important events in Canadian history and honour Canadians who have made a nationally significant contribution to the country. In 1972, when the Board adopted a new criterion that "Canadians who have made an exceptional contribution outside Canada may be considered for commemoration," Dr. Norman Bethune (1890–1939) was immediately recommended as a person of national historic significance. This endorsement coincided with Canada's official recognition of the communist People's Republic of China in 1970, and Prime Minister Pierre-Elliot Trudeau's belief that Canada should no longer ignore Bethune's heroic accomplishments.
Given the well-deserved followings that the Canadian artists David Milne (1882-1953) and John Hartman (b. 1950) have both enjoyed and the wonderful qualities in their respective works of art, this book on their colour drypoints should have been a gem. As well, there are the fine reputations of the writers on board; for example, Rosemarie Tovell, who wrote the catalogue's main essay, produced the National Gallery of Canada's monograph on David Milne's Painting Place in 1976 as well as the landmark NGC exhibition catalogue, Reflections in a Quiet Pool: The Prints of David Milne in 1980. How unfortunate then, that the Carleton publication falls short of its mark in several ways. The project seemed off to a promising start: a few years ago Diana Nemiioff, director of the Carleton University Art Gallery, invited Rosemarie Tovell, then newly retired as the curator of prints and drawings at the National Gallery, to look through Carleton's extensive print holdings with an eye to curating an exhibition. Tovell was drawn to the body of intriguing colour drypoints produced by Ontario-based artist John Hartman from 1985 to 1994, which he acknowledges were directly inspired by the colour drypoints that Milne had created from 1927 to 1947. Anne-Marie Ninacs, curator at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, was invited to contribute an essay, following on her lecture about Milne that was part of her recent research fellowship at the National Gallery of Canada. Sandra Dyck, curator of the Carleton Gallery, was pressed into service as the book's copy editor (given double billing with Nemiroff). A conversation among Nemiroff, Tovell, David Milne Jr. and John Hartman taken from a recording made when they looked through the prints for the exhibition, is also included in the catalogue.