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Biography Page 5

The following morning after a brief farewell, the Byrons' continued on their journey to Montreal. Their "Voyage de Découverte" was complete.

It was now time to prosper financially. He puzzled over whether to focus on his next exhibit, which remained an uncertainty. Still emotional from the previous ordeal in St Eustache, he was reluctant to take an additional risk. Amid all the chaos and despite his impressive progress in the previous three years Gerald's impetuous behaviour had left him in a weak and ailing state. Though a host of factors were lined up in his favor he faced some stiff challenges. Gerald was particularly concerned with the need to alter his marketing focus, and the reestablishment of their cash flow. When approached, his colleagues were risk averse and under capitalized, i.e. they were reluctant and pleaded poverty

He enjoyed the challenges and rewards that come during these periods. However, this particular incident exasperated him. Even though this voyage had taken such a toll on him, he resolutely possessed a firm sense of optimistic foresight and unwaveringly clung to the belief that his exhibit would occur in the very near future.

Gerald was intrigued by an associate's recommendation to approach the manager of the Laurentian Hotel in Montreal, who had shown an interest in displaying his art. An agreement was finalized to exhibit his art in the Hotel's mezzanine beginning Oct. 28, 1961 for a period of three weeks. This would give him more than enough time to work on what he described as his final pieces.

Gerald was determined to utilize their elderly relatives Gran Mama, Gran Papa and Joe Pa as subject matter. The elders were reticent to pose as they were convinced their appearance was unappealing and unsuitable. Gerald persisted and successfully convinced his relatives to participate even if begrudgingly. During these sessions, the elders aggravation was vocal as well as visible. They had no patience to pose for long periods of time.

In view of the fact that he had developed such a phenomenal skill, he would draw from memory and imagination alone. Perspective, proportion, light and shade became second nature to him. While a common technique of almost all artists is extrapolation, Gerald became fascinated with its potential when using Françoise as his subject matter. Instead of painting Françoise's current features, he did a whole series of portraits of her as he believed she would look in her eighties. He was engrossed with her future appearance, and sixty years on she could attest to her husband's precise predictions. She looked almost exactly as he had portrayed her on canvas.

He seemed to be driven by an inner sense that his time on earth was limited. He gave himself no relief as he moved away from portraiture to more intricate themes. Gerald was eager to pursue and immerse himself with sights, sounds and smells of the Montreal harbour. As he had shown earlier in Gaspé, Gerald had a deep passion for docks, boats and sea water. His fascination met palette. To say the least, their living accommodations in old Montreal were deplorable and Gerald did suffer many protestations from his wife. Invariably his preference was to live in squalor as his artistic senses were more in tune with these surroundings. This was to a great extent, more efficient and a more effective way to achieve his aspirations, since they resided in such an unsavory location where he could absorb the life and culture of the docks.

Like a man possessed, Gerald would spend upwards of twelve hours a day on those docks painting feverishly. On such occasions he was so engrossed in his art he failed to notice the time and Françoise would await his arrival back home with despair. If there is any indication that Gerald had lost track of time she would head towards the harbor to investigate his whereabouts. One night he vanished, no where to be found for what felt like an eternity. She thought there might be a possibility he fallen off a pier. The police were notified and four hours later, with the assistance of numerous police vehicles intensely searching the area, he was found.

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