Les Ailes, by Micheline Beauchemin, 1956
Born in Longueuil, Quebec, Micheline Beauchemin studied at the Montreal School of Fine Arts, at the École des beaux-arts in Paris and at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. She studied stained glass and drawing and took first prize in these disciplines in Paris.
Beauchemin first developed her artistic talent through painting and stained glass. She became interested in murals, embroidery and tapestries while on a trip to Greece. It was there that she started experimenting with new textures and colours. In 1953, she held the first exhibit of her stained glass work in Chartres, France. A few years later, in 1956, she exhibited her first tapestries at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Chartres.
After a long sojourn in Europe and North Africa, Micheline Beauchemin returned to Canada in 1957. She took part in the first Exposition nationale d'artisanat du Canada. Two of her tapestries were chosen to decorate the Canadian pavilion at the Brussels World Fair in Belgium. That same year, Beauchemin also worked for Radio-Canada as a costume designer for the theatre and for television.
During the 1960s, she went to Japan, China, Burma, Mexico, Cambodia, Latin America and India to expand her knowledge of new technologies and techniques, as well as the latest materials and designs. She also studied the art of weaving theatre curtains in Japan. Her trips around the world had a great impact on her work and enriched her repertory of colours and materials such as wool, metallic thread, silk, cotton, nylon, acrylics, aluminium, gold and silver thread and rayon.
Some of Beauchemin's most famous tapestries include the acrylic curtain that she made for the Grande Salle of the Théâtre Maisonneuve at Place des Arts in Montréal (1963-1967) and the stage curtain of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa (1966-1969). She was also commissioned to create tapestries for Queen's Park in Toronto (1968-1969), the social sciences building at York University (1970), the Hudson's Bay Company in Winnipeg (1970), the Canadian pavilion at the 1970 World Fair in Osaka, the Department of Revenue in Quebec, and many other locations.
Beauchemin has created a repertory of various works which includes theatre curtains, tapestries, wall hangings, embroidery murals, flexible walls, stained glass works, scale models, collages, toys, costumes and illustrations. Among her other best-known works are: Visage de Mistra (1954), Le Mille-Pattes (1955), L'Hiver, La Chute d'Icare (1962-1963), La Porte (1970), Totem de pierre (1976), Les Ailes nordiques, Couleur du temps, Blanc totem, Oiseau totem (1977), Sombre carapace ailée and Hommage au fleuve Saint-Laurent (1985).
Her works are included in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; the Musée du Québec; Pearson Airport, Toronto; the Canada Council, Ottawa; the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau; the Bibliothèque centrale, Quebec; the Taxation Data Centre, Shawinigan; the Revenue Building, Québec; North York City Hall, Toronto; and the collections of companies in Montréal, San Francisco and Tokyo. In 1990, Micheline Beauchemin exhibited her works at the Place des Arts in Montréal.
Micheline Beauchemin is famous for using new materials and up-to-date techniques to create her works, which were adapted to modern, public, social, artistic and ideological contexts during the 1950s and during the Quiet Revolution. She transformed traditional tapestry into a sophisticated work that required links between artists, decorators, architects and engineers and their social environment.
Beauchemin has received several prizes and honours including the Canadian Centennial Silver Medal (1967), the Canada Council Prize (1967), the title of Officer of the Order of Canada (1973), the Medal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (1982), the Saidye-Bronfman Award for Excellence in Fine Crafts (1982), an honorary Doctorate in Arts from Laval University (1983), the Prize of the Canadian Institute in Quebec, the Prix d'excellence Lucien-Desmarais "La Navette d'or" (1988) as well as the title of Knight of the Ordre national du Québec (1991).
Beauchemin also taught embroidery at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (1981) and was elected member of the Royal Society of Arts of Canada and the Royal Society of Canada in 1971.
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