Photo: Laki Vazakas

MARY BEACH: was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1919. In 1925, after her mother's divorce, she moved to France. During the first part of World War II she lived in the small town of St. Jean de Luz, but, with the entrance of the United States in the war in 1941, she was soon viewed as a suspicious alien and was, for a time, interned in a Nazi prison camp.

Despite her parents' protests (but perhaps under the influence of her relative Sylvia Beach - famed proprietor of Paris's Shakespeare & Co. and the first publisher of James Joyce), Mary pursued her life as an artist with great passion and from an early age. Her first solo show was at the Galerie du Bearn, in Pau, France in 1943, and she has since then continuously exhibited her work all over the world.

Mary returned to the United States in 1946, where she married Alain Beach (the American war hero she had met in France) and had two children. She attended the Hartford Art School (where she won first prize in her class), and also attended school at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

In 1957 Mary and her family returned to France, to Strasbourg, and then Paris in 1959. She attended the esteemed Grande Chaumiere, where she studied under Henri Goetz. She exhibited at the historic Salon des Indepentes in Paris in both 1957 and 1958; won the Prix du Dome at the Salon des Femmes Peintres in 1959; won 1st Prize, Vichy, France, Silver Medal in 1959 as well; and was exhibited at the Salon des Suindependents in Paris in 1960.

These early accomplishments stand alone, and would be exemplary for any artist. But for an American woman in France - for a wife and mother in the late 1950s anywhere - Mary's success in the male-dominated art world is truly astounding. She is one of the great, underappreciated pioneers of her generation.

Today, Mary lives and works in Norwich, New York.