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Diplomatic life suited Montreal artist (1983)

SIMONE AUBRY BEAULIEU

Ce texte, rédigé par E. J. Gordon, est un article publié dans The Gazette, samedi 27 août 1983.


Diplomatic life suited Montreal artist

"To live is a magic art," the words of the well-known French writer, Blaise Cendras, grace the frontispiece of the handsome book of Simone Beaulieu's paintings, drawings and sketches.

Mrs. Beaulieu's life has lived up to that pronouncement to an unusual degree.

The wife of the well-known former Canadian diplomat, Paul Beaulieu, she knows the great cities of the world intimately and has achieved international fame as an artist.

Fluent in French, English, Spanish and Portuguese, with a smattering of Russian and Arabic, she is now working on her autobiography.

Simone Beaulieu, whose maiden name was Aubrey, grew up in Montreal.

"I was christined Marie Exilda but who could live with a name like that? So I changed it," said the slim, fair-haired woman, the only child of a surgeon at Notre Dame Hospital.

Night courses

One of her grandfathers was Ulric Emard, lawyer and businessman who founded the suburb of Ville Emard for his workers.

She attended the Outremont Convent of the Sacred Heart, continuing her education at Montreal's Ecole des Beaux Arts and taking night courses in literature at the University of Montreal.

"I earned my fees by illustrating books and writing art criticism. It was in the 1940s when painters such as Paul Emile Borduas and Alfred Pellan were causing a renaissance in Quebec art."

Paul Beaulieu, whom she married in 1942, was the youngest son of Louis Emery Beaulieu, then dean of law at the Universite de Montreal.

Paul also took a law degree, following which he applied to join Canada's Department of External Affairs. He passed the exams and was immediately sent to the Canadian Embassy in Washington as third secretary.

"His posting came more quickly than usual," his wife said, "as the Second World War was in progress resulting in the department being depleted of some of its diplomats."

Then in 1945 Mr. Beaulieu was sent to Paris as cultural attache to the Canadian Embassy.

"It was a marvellous time to be there," Simone Beaulieu said. "Paris was crowded with all sorts of nationalities.

We had a huge flat in the suburb of Neuilly and met many prominent figures on the French literary and art scene, such as writer Jean Cocteau and the painter, Braque. Teilhard de Chardin, the famous Jesuit writer, and Andre Marchand often referred to as the successor to Picasso, became close friends."

"I had my first solo exhibition in Paris at Jean Cocteau's flat," she said," and it was opened by Canada's ambassador, Georges Vanier."

Among the young Canadians studying in Paris at the time was Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

"I remember I presented him to Teilhard de Chardin wwith the words, "Here is a future Canadian prime minister."

Following their Paris stay, Paul Beaulieu acted as Canadian consul in Boston from 1949 to 1952.

In 1949 Mrs. Beaulieu submitted one of her portraits to the Concours artistiques de la province de Quebec and won first prize.

"With the $7,000 prize money I bought a cottage at Perce in the Gaspe Peninsula, where Paul and I still spend part of each summer," she said.

After the Boston assignment the next two years were spent in Ottawa before leaving for England where Mr. Beaulieu served as counsellor to the Canadian High Commission from 1954 to 1958.

"I loved the London scene," Simone Beaulieu said. "We had an attractive flat in Portman Square and it was an exciting period in the art field in Britain.

Artist colony

"We became friends with Ben Nicholson, who was the first British cubist, with world-renowned sculptor Henry Moore and with landscape painter John Milne. I had another well-received solo exhibition."

The Beaulieu's next assignment was the Mid-East where Mr. Beaulieu became charge d'affaires in Beirut, Lebanon.

"Beirut was a lovely city then and it will be again," said his wife, "but we were there at a dangerous time. I never left the house without carrying a Beretta in my handbag."

She found diplomatic entertaining very tricky as the country had seven official religions and correct protocol must be observed in dealing with each sect.

After three years in Lebanon, the Canadian government asked Paul Beaulieu to stay on for another term with status of ambassador and with accreditation to Irak.

Then it was off to South America where he was appointed ambassador to Brazil.

"I had a magnificient atelier in the huge embassy residence in Rio de Janeiro," she said. "It was before Brazilia became the country's capital. The garden was filled with exotic tropical plants. The amazing colors and the country's strong light are reflected in the paintings I did there."

Some of these now hang in her Montreal home - arresting portraits of Brazilian children, of the colorful figures in Rio's Mardi Gras carnaval and arresting landscapes.

Mr. Beaulieu's next posting was to the United nations as Canadian deputy permanent representative so he and his wife moved to New York.

"The cultural life was stimulating with the city's marvellous exhibitions and music but it was exhausting for Paul. Sessions at the UN often continued until the early morning hours."

Difficult time

In 1969 her husband was made Canadian ambassador to Paris. Delighted as they were to be returning to the much-loved city, it was a difficult time for a Canadian diplomat to be there. Tension was still in the air following de Gaulle's famous 'Vive le Quebec libre' speech made in Montreal in 1967.

"Paul became exhausted and in 1971 was named ambassador to Portugal, a post considered not as strenuous. Off we went to Lisbon but, once again, there was tension as a revolution was brewing."

Ill health forced Mr. Beaulieu to give up the assignment and he and his wife returned to Canada. Following a period of convalescence, he served in Ottawa's Department of External Affairs until his retirement.

Life continues at an active pace for the Beaulieus.

Simone has founded a publishing house, Lion Aile, and has produced a beautiful book of her outstanding paintings. She works in her atelier and is a Cordon Blue cook. The meticulous diaries she has kept of her diplomatic life will form the basis of her autobiography.

Paul is president of the French-speaking branch of the institute of International Affairs and of PEN ( a world-wide association of poets, playrights, essayists, editors and novelists) and is a director of the literary magazine Ecrits du Canada français.

The couple has two children. Marie Simone is an archeologist, at present living in Brussels. Their son, Louis Emery, a fluent linguist, is a graduate of l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, and lives in Montreal.


E. J. GORDON
Social Notes

THE GAZETTE,
Montreal, Saturday, August 27, 1983




Jacques Beaulieu
jacqbeau@canardscanins.ca
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