Paul-Vanier Beaulieu

1910 - 1996

This versatile artist, whose practice emerged in parallel with Quebec’s artistic schools and movements, is considered a precursor to experimental painting as it would develop in that province. At 17, Paul‑Vanier Beaulieu commenced studies at the École des beaux‑arts de Montréal, where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Jean Paul Lemieux and Stanley Cosgrove; dissatisfied with the teaching provided there, however, he soon left. In 1938, a year before the Contemporary Arts Society was founded, Beaulieu headed for Paris, where he would spend the next thirty years. From his studio in Montparnasse, he experienced the artistic effervescence of pre‑war Paris, and discovered the works of Vlaminck, Rouault, and Picasso. Imprisoned in an internment camp throughout the German occupation, Beaulieu’s career would be fully launched only after the war’s end. Over the years, the artist’s constant quest for perfection drove him to commit himself to a succession of media and techniques (drawing, oil painting, watercolour, intaglio, etching, decal) and genres (still life, portrait, abstraction, landscape). In 1951, his Nature morte à la bouteille jaune was the first Canadian painting acquired by the Musée national d’art moderne de Paris. Seven years later, Beaulieu, Alfred Pellan and Jean Paul Riopelle were featured in the exhibition Trois peintres canadiens. But his work would be seen most frequently in Montreal, where Beaulieu was represented by Max Stern, of the Dominion Gallery, from 1954 to 1965. In 1971, a small gallery in Saint‑Sauveur‑des‑Monts, where an earlier show of his watercolours had met with great success, held a retrospective exhibition for Beaulieu, who had recently been admitted to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Beaulieu settled and ultimately carried out the remainder of his career in the same small town, north of Montreal.