The Art and Too-Brief Life of Donald Beauregard
by Tom Alder
Among the list of highly talented Utah artists who passed on decades before reaching their potential is Donald Beauregard (1884-1914). Born in Fillmore, Utah to Mormon immigrant ranchers, he was an energetic and enthusiastic lover of nature and art. A posthumous reports says that at the age of 12 he ran away from home, walking with an old trapper to and through Yellowstone, sketching and exploring. He left home at 16 and traveled for a year before landing at Brigham Young Academy (BYU) for two years of study. In 1903, Beauregard sought further instruction under Edwin Evans at the University of Utah. Evans, former art missionary to Paris [See 15 Bytes ] and long-time art department chair at the U, recognized the vast talent of the young Beauregard and soon appointed him his assistant in 1904.
Beauregard graduated in 1906 with high honors, not only winning accolades in art but also in oration (talking) and debate (arguing). In fact, during his first year at the U, Beauregard's oratorical prowess earned him first place in a contest in Lawrence, Kansas. Soon after, he was recognized for his expertise in debate, capturing second place in a competition in St. Louis.
Lack many of his fellow artists Beauregard felt the allure of academic training in Paris, but lack of funds forced Beauregard to take up a laborer's job for a year after graduation before he was off to Europe. The Academie Julian, set up expressly for foreign students and a favorite of Utah artists, was the destination for Beauregard where he studied under Jean Paul Laurens. During his training at the Julian, Beauregard won a first prize in composition and later, according to James Haseltine in 100 Years of Utah Painting, “…the Louvre acquired one of his works.” [Page 25].
While in Europe, Beauregard felt the influence of Monet and the Impressionists even though that discipline was not taught in the academies of the time. He returned in the summer of 1908 and the next year accepted a teaching and art supervisor position in the Ogden School District (1909-11). His position afforded him the summers to further his studies, which he did with U of U archeology professor Byron Cummings. It was during one of these field studies in Arizona and New Mexico that the affable Beauregard met and was befriended by Dr. Edgar L. Hewett. The director of archeological exhibits for the Pan California Exposition, Hewitt became interested in Beauregard's talent while the two were documenting early Spanish colonial ruins. This fortuitous trip included the artist's introduction to an attorney and art patron, Frank Springer who, like Hewitt, was interested in the 25-year old Beauregard's obvious abilities. Springer later offered his financial support to Beauregard for further study abroad. Beauregard continued his studies in Spain, France, and Germany. It was during this period of study that Beauregard became interested in the works of Gauguin and Cezanne and as Robert Olpin painted out in Artists of Utah (p. 99), “…the Utahn incorporated cubist feeling and rich color into thrusting and boldly painted expressions.”
Springer commissioned Beauregard to create six murals for the 1915 San Diego exposition, no doubt at the suggestion of Hewitt. Beauregard was charged with depicting in the six 10 X 12 foot murals the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of Santa Fe. Springer again sponsored Beauregard's trip first to Washington, DC for research, then sent him to Spain for "Old World" perspective. During his labors in Spain, Beauregard became ill and was advised to retreat to Switzerland where it was thought the higher altitude would be a precaution against tuberculosis. A brief trip to Munich provided no better results than had Switzerland. In November of 1913 he sailed home, first landing in New York, then via the train, had a conference with Springer in DC. When he arrived in Santa Fe in February, 1914 [by way of Fillmore for a brief visit with his parents], Beauregard set up shop and vigorously worked on the Assisi murals. He completed one or two of the murals [the record shows in several sources that he completed one; in other references, he was said to have finished two panels and established preliminary designs for the rest by 1913]. Beauregard labored on the project until his pain caused him to collapse. Unable to hold a brush, he was obliged to travel to Denver for a consultation with doctors about the cause of his illness. Subsequent exploratory surgery occurred in March, followed by the prognosis. Beauregard corresponded with Springer about his condition: terminal cancer. The news was devastating for Springer who wrote that with few exceptions “…nothing has affected me so deeply as Beauregard’s grave letter in which he announced his own death sentence.” [Extract from Frank Springer and New Mexico… by David L Caffey, p. 178-181]. When he had regained a margin of strength, Beauregard traveled home to Fillmore where, just two weeks later, he passed away at age 29. Two other artists completed the Assisi murals which remain in the Santa Fe Art Museum.
Albeit limited by his untimely death, Beauregard's body of work shows that the young man was an artist’s artist. Beauregard's delicate “Still Life with Lemon," a work painted when the artist was only sixteen, demonstrates the range of talent of a promising artist. “Milking Time,” [Utah Arts Council] painted in 1906 while he was a student at the Julian, fully illustrates Beauregard’s command of the academic techniques, reminiscent of the works of Evans, Harwood, Fairbanks, and multiple other Utahns who studied in Paris.|1| His sponsored studies in Paris, like so many others of Utah's renowned artists, are clearly reflected in works like “Artist’s Father Clearing Sagebrush,” c. 1907 |0| and his “Working from Dawn to Dusk, near Fillmore,” 1908 |2|, both at the Springville Museum of Art. Both attest to what Haseltine described as a "muscular art . . . rare in Utah painting. We have seen it only in Edwin Evans."
A sad coda: About eight years after Beauregard’s untimely death, his mother, Estella Beauregard, the executor of the artist's estate, was arraigned on charges of grand larceny. She had removed a total of nine paintings by her son from the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, a local furniture store, and from the ZCMI art department. She told an attendant she was removing them to place them in more suitable frames. The theft interrupted a planned exhibit that had been personally arranged by Alice Merrill Horne, the founder of the present day Utah Arts Council. The charges were brought on behalf of a childhood sweetheart of the artist who had loaned the paintings and claimed they were given to her as a gift by the artist. Mrs. Beauregard claimed them for the estate. In December of 1923 she was arrainged for the theft of six of the paintings and was let go on bail (unfortunately we don't know what happened next; any sleuths willing to take up the trail?)
In Horne’s landmark Utah art book, Devotees and Their Shrines, completed shortly after Beauregard's death, she said of him, "He understands the principle of domination and eliminationthat one idea should dominate and all that tends to strengthen that idea may be introduced but detail attracting attention from that idea must be left out [p. 94]."
Dorothy T. Dulle, associated with the Museum of New Mexico observed, "Tragic irony confronts the critic who would evaluate the work of Beauregardtragic in that a career so full of promise should be so early ended: ironical in that the incredible amount of work he did should have been [largely] preliminary studies in a career which, had it come to fruition, must surely have been an eminent one."
Exhibition Review: St. George
Art for our Best FriendsArt for Animals & the 575 Project
by Lisa Huber
One of the most hotly covered news questions immediately following Barack Obama's election was: What kind of dog will the Obama family bring to the White House? At his post-election news conference, the president elect mentioned that the family's first choice would be to choose a shelter animal (though his daughter's allergies might make finding the appropriate one difficult). In a lighthearted moment Obama referred to himself as a mutt the press conference touched on a very serious topic. As a society, do we understand the role animal shelters play in removing unwanted pets and strays from our streets and back alleys? Or do we talk ourselves into believing that somehow each of these animals will eventually find a warm, loving home for the rest of its long life? The actual role of the animal shelter as a terminal point for millions of our pets is the reality, and is becoming disturbing to more and more Americans. Through exhibits like Art for Animals, at Dixie College's Sears Art Museum Gallery through January 16, we are brought to the realization that each animal is a living, feeling entity, AND, that their numbers and "unwanted" status are a negative reflection of each of us and of our society as a whole.
Art for Animals, sponsored by Best Friends Animal Sanctuary of Kanab, and Tyler Poolco of St. George, uses traditional mediums of drawing, painting, assemblage and ceramics to declare that euthanasia is not the answer to overpopulation of domestic animals. The show features Cyrus Mejia's 575 Project, a traveling art project that in an explosively poignant way brings attention to the 575 pets euthanized every hour in the United States. Local artists were also invited to submit work for this exhibit as a memorial to the lives of these unwanted pets. Cyrus Mejia says "I look forward to the day when this idea [saving pets from euthanasia], which has already taken root in so many communities, will blossom to the point where there are truly no more homeless pets."
Kathy Cieslewicz, Curator of the Sears Gallery, says the idea to invite Cyrus Mejia to the gallery came when the artist explained that although his show has appeared in large cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and Phoenix, it has never appeared in its entirety in the State of Utah. Cieslewicz "saw this as an opportunity for the Sears Gallery to display all of the pieces under one roof." She says "Other selected artists were invited to create art to hang on the gallery walls. These works all follow a theme depicting dogs and cats as intelligent, sensitive, and aware beings."
Mejia, who addressed the crowd at the opening reception in the Sears Gallery on November 14, was born in New Orleans in 1947. He studied art at Hinds Community College in Mississippi before a several-year tour of Europe. An encounter with dogs caged in a London research facility planted the seed that changed the direction of his art. In 1984, Mejia, his wife Anne, and a few other friends founded Best Friends Animal Society, now headquartered in Kanab, Utah, where they both live with their family of dogs and cats. In his opening night presentation, Mejia said that the idea for the 575 Project came from his attempt to understand the millions of pets that are euthanized every year. When completing the calculations, he figured 575 were euthanized every hour. "I decided this was a number I could do something with," Mejia says. As a result, each of his pieces is made from 575 individual objects. One doghouse is covered with 575 dog collars, |1| another piece displays 575 soaring paper butterflies made from the paperwork processed while euthanizing pets, |2-3| and yet another work features 575 license tags flying upward on the wings of ravens.|4| These items were all collected from animal shelters around the country. Mejia says, "I believe art can and should play a role in society. Art can grab the attention and shine a bright light into dark and hidden corners. What happens to homeless pets in shelters is a dark corner that I hope to illuminate with The 575 Project."
At the exhibit's opening reception, Mejia included a performance piece for his project. He lit 575 candles, hand-molded in cat-food tins. After they were all arranged and lit, making a magnificent display, participants extinguished the candles in a single moment, the immediate darkness symbolizing how quickly 575 small lives are taken from us.
In addition to Mejia's project, Art for Animals includes works by over twenty-five local and regional artists. Jeff Ham's pieces provide a spectacular display of color and movement throughout the exhibition. |5| The personality of his animals is vividly portrayed. Lee Udall Bennion's pieces grab your eye and are quickly identifiable along with her signature frames, and capture humanizing characteristics of her animals. |6| Julie Rogers' pastels are moving and playful with large strong strokes.|7| LuAnn Williams created two poster-size original dog and cat prints using a spoon as her press, resulting in wonderful crisp lines.|8| Anne Weiler Brown's pieces are abstract, most striking of which is a lion materializing from shadow. |9| Royden Card's cat silhouette print is simple but full of movement. Donald Brown's "Help" |10| poignantly displays every caged mutt's plea, and Lonni Clarke's dog portrait almost leaps from the canvas.
This large group of artists, in conjunction with Mejia's work, brings together a wide range of mediums and styles with one theme in mind: delightful animal personalities play a vital role in our lives but that our "throw away" society is wasting this precious resource. The show celebrates animals as pets and conversely portrays the cold meanness of lives snuffed out.
When you visit be sure to investigate the interactive doghouse/computer display where you may search for a pet who is looking for a home. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is always looking for good families to adopt their inmates. All show pieces are for sale. 20% of sales from Art for Animals goes to the Best Friends Sanctuary. In addition, each artist has the choice to donate any additional percentage to an animal shelter of their choice. Cieslewicz says, "I hope all animal lovers will come to enjoy the exhibit and will consider purchasing a piece of artwork to benefit Best Friends Sanctuary, the Sears Gallery, and other animal organizations. We appreciate Tyler Poolco for helping to sponsor the exhibit."