Paul Romaine Marie Léonce Chevré

Mr Paul Romaine Marie Léonce Chevré

Paul Romaine Marie Léonce Chevré

Mr Paul Romaine Chevré was born in Brussels of French parents in 1867. His father ran a foundry, and at an early age Chevré demonstrated an apptitude for sculpture. He had his first exhibition in Paris in 1890, and in 1896 won a commission to produce what many critics suggest is his best work, a monumental sculpture to the memory of Canada's founder, Samuel de Champlain, which stands in Quebec City on the Dufferin terrace beside the Chateau Frontenac. The monument was dedicated on Sept 21, 1898 by the Governor-General of Canada, Lord Aberdeen.

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Samuel de Champlain
Photo: © Ville de Québec

In 1900, Chevré won the bronze medal for sculpture at the Paris International Exhibition. He made his reputation in Canada, where he obtained a number of commissions. He would spend six months each year at his studio in Chateau Anisères, near Paris, and six months in Canada obtaining work. In 1909 he won the commission to do the statue of Quebec premier Honoré Mercier which stands on the grounds of the Quebec legislature, then in 1911, did another statue of the Canadian historian François-Xavier Garneau.

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Honoré Mercier
François-Xavier Garneau
Photos: © Ville de Québec

Charles Hays commissioned Chevré to do a bust of Canadian prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier for the lobby of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway's Château Laurier Hotel in Ottawa, and Chevré was aboard Titanic on his way to Canada for the official opening of the hotel on April 26. He boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as a first class passenger (ticket number PC 17594, £29 14s , Cabin A-9).

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Château Laurier Hotel
Bust of Sir Wilfrid Laurier
(Courtesy: Alan Hustak, Canada)
 

On the evening of the disaster, Chevré was playing cards in the Café Parisien with Pierre Maréchal and Alfred Fernand Omont and Lucien P. Smith. When the ship stopped, Chevré thought it too cold to go outside to investigate, and asked a Steward to open a porthole and have a look. Even though the accident didn't appear to be serious, Chevré and Omont pocketed their cards and decided to get into one of the first lifeboats being lowered, No. 7. Some of their companions chided them for getting into the boat, but Chevré wasn't taking any chances. He and Omont described their rescue in an article that appeared in Le Matin and The Times.

 

On the Carpathia he sent four telegrams:

The first was sent on 17 April 1912 at 7.40 am

Philéas Corriveau Quebec
Sauvés par Carpathia allons New York
Chevré

The second on 17 April at 12.39 pm

Chevré 33 Chateau Asnieres Paris
Sauvés par Carpathia allons New York
Paul

The third on 17 April at 3.11 pm

Chevré 33 Chateau Asnieres Paris
Sauvés receuillis (sic) Carpathia allons New York
Paul

The fourth on 18 April at 6.2 am

Corriveau 85 La Boetie Paris
Sauvés par Carpathia allons New York
Chevré

After his arrival in New York Chevré was interviewed by a reporter for the Montreal Herald.

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La Presse, 22 April 1912
(Courtesy: Alan Hustak, Canada)

The account, which was syndicated to a number of English newspapers, was sensational. It read, in part:

"Captain Smith got band back to the big dining room to play when Titanic struck. They had finished their evening program some time before. Mr Chevré saw that the lowering of the boats which took along the people on the ship appeared not to be appreciating the danger they were in. Chevré said an officer asked him to get into a lifeboat to set an example. This he did, and was followed by five or six other girls, two of whom he believed to be the Missess Fortunes of Winnipeg. Mr Chevré stated that a few minutes before the ship sank Captain Smith cried out, "my luck has turned," and then shot himself. I saw him fall against the canvas railing on the bridge and disappear."

The story also quoted Chevré as saying that the statue of Laurier destined for the Chateau Laurier hotel had been lost in the sinking. It was a dramatic read, but a total fabrication by a reporter who either didn't understand French or made the whole thing up to sell papers.

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(Courtesy: Alan Hustak, Canada)

Chevré arrived in Montreal on April 22, and stormed into the French language daily, La Presse, to set the record straight. Everything that had been written about him in English, he complained was "a tissue of lies. He denied saying Captain Smith had committed suicide, and said Laurier's bust was safe. "The marble bust weights 7,445 pounds. How do you think I could have had it in my cabin? Good Lord! The bust is safe. It is actually aboard the Bretagne. " The Herald, which printed the original story insisted it certainly did not fake Chevré's account, but allowed that since its reporter didn't speak French very well, "he might have misunderstood Mr Chevré's rapid fire narrative."

Chevré remained in Quebec for six months after the sinking and obtained the commission to do the statue of Marianne which stands outside the Union Française in Montreal facing Viger Square. Then Chevré who spent each summer for 14 years in Canada returned to France and never sailed again.

He died in Paris on 20 February 1914. "Paul Chevré was a passenger on the ill-fated Titanic," read his obituary in the Montreal Gazette, "and although he survived the shock, it is doubtful he ever recovered from it."

Notes
According to the Senate List he lived at 96 Avenue des Terres, Paris; the List of Manifest... records that his father lived at 33 Chateau St. Asnieres, Paris.

Notes

Sketch of Paul Chevre from Le Monde Illustré (Courtesy of Olivier Mendez, France)

References and Sources

Alan Hustak (1999) Titanic: The Canadian Story. Véhicule Press. ISBN 1 55065 113 7
Dictionnaire des Artistes de langue française en amerique du nord, Musée du Québec, Les Presses de l''Université Laval, 1992.
Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigration Officer At Port Of Arrival (Date: 18th-19th June 1912, Ship: Carpathia) - National Archives, NWCTB 85 T715 Vol 4183
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279]) 

Credits
Daniel Drouin, Canada
Alan Hustak, Canada
Olivier Mendez, France
Hermann Söldner, Germany

Pictures

Sculptor Paul Chevré

SCULPTOR PAUL CHEVRé

 

Articles and Stories

PRAISES HEROISM OF THE SAILORS

Worcester Evening Gazette  (1912) 

PRAISES HEROISM OF THE SAILORS

 
The Turn of a Card

Titanic Research  (2009) 

THE TURN OF A CARD

 
FRENCHMEN'S ACCOUNT

The Times  (1912) 

FRENCHMEN'S ACCOUNT

 
HEARD DEATH CHORUS FOR OVER AN HOUR

New York Times  (1912) 

HEARD DEATH CHORUS FOR OVER AN HOUR

 
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    (2014) Paul Romaine Marie Léonce Chevré Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #69, accessed 20th December 2014 08:49:39 PM)

    URL : http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/paul-chevre.html