The Bronfman Collection 
Virtual Gallery

Masters of the Crafts

Micheline Beauchemin — Painter-Weaver

About the craftsperson

Micheline Beauchemin
"Micheline Beauchemin is an artist who knows no bounds. She calls herself a painter-weaver, but several of her works, like the one in the Cambridge Center, more closely resemble sculpture. Others are more like mobiles, in constant movement, responding to every current of air. Sometimes she weaves with metallic yarns, creating such works as Winter, a gift to the president of France, or White Totem, which was given to the wife of the president of Egypt, or Dark winged Carapace, which adorns the Centre industrial et culturel in Paris. By allying herself with the boldest architects, she ensures that they design surfaces in their buildings for her tapestries to occupy or provide spaces in which her huge three-dimensional works will be at home. Give her walls, open cathedrals to her...."

Guy Fournier
Montreal and Paris

For Micheline Beauchemin, the process of artistic development has always been free spirited and continuous. Her passionate pursuit of creative expression has generated self-directed study and the mastery of several crafts in many different parts of the world.

Speaking of her early training at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal, she praises the creative and open-minded instruction of Alfred Pellan and Jean Benoit. In Paris, she studied drawing and stained-glass making, and at Mistras, Greece, renewed her convent - school skills in embroidery. At Chartres, France, Beauchemin hooked her first rugs and tapestries.

Returning to Montreal, she worked as a costume designer for stage and television, and became interested in the creation of theatre curtains. Unfortunately, neither the technology nor the opportunity to do such large-scale weaving was available to her at that time in Canada. Undeterred, Beauchemin travelled to Japan, where artisans working on the wall restoration of the Imperial Palace introduced her to the craft of large-scale weaving and also to Japanese fibres.
Opera curtain
Opera curtain, 1966, 1969
Nylon monofilament
15 m x 27 m
National Arts Center, Ottawa
Image used with permission of the artist
Archives - Box 592, F9

On the basis of woven samples prepared during this visit and subsequent trips to Japan, Beauchemin won contracts to design and construct two massive theatre curtains, one for the Opera of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and the other for the Place des Arts in Montreal.

The success of these major undertakings confirmed Beauchemin's artistic future as a weaver, and enabled her to continue pushing back the boundaries of traditional weaving.

CMC 86-8 - Homage to the St-Lawrence River
Homage to the St-Lawrence River, 1985
silk and metallic threads
acrylic filaments
292 cm x 145 cm
CMC 86-8 (Bronfman)

Beauchemin working with assistants
Beauchemin working with assistants
on the Opera curtain tor the
National Arts Centre, Ottawa
in Kyoto, Japan, 1968

Beauchemin has taken weaving off the loom, expanding its volume, length and breadth. Traditional high-warp and low-warp woven tapestries have evolved into double-sided mobiles and synthetic-fibre walls. Her repertoire of materials has grown to include unique combinations of handspun wool, silk and other natural fibres, as well as nylon, aluminum, and gold and silver threads.

Beauchemin's continuing interest in fibre arts has inspired her to study weaving techniques in Mexico, Cambodia, India and South America. For her, the technical sophistication and timeless quality of prehistoric textiles is a challenge for modern weavers. Speaking of a pre-Columbian textile, she said:

"To see, to know that this done such a long time ago, by hand, and by people who had the same preoccupation as I have, as we have ! . . . you look at the textile, and you know that the question was asked three thousand years ago, the same as you ask today, and the answer: There is no change"

Sombre carapace nordique
Sombre carapace nordique
Metallic threads, silk
15 ft. x 10 ft.
Image used with permission of the artist
Archives - Box 592, F9

Beauchemin nourishes this creative flow by maintaining a home base in a restored seventeenth-century farmhouse at Grondines, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. Situated near the village of Cap-Santé, where she vacationed in her youth, the house provides a link between her own past and her French Canadian heritage.

Within this familiar and tranquil environment, Beauchemin constructs massive tapestries and fibre sculptures for installation in public buildings all over the world. She has transported the ancient skills of weaving into the modern world of fibre art.

Recent Works
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