Alain Béchetoille (1936-2019)

par | 4 Avr 2019 | Sociétés savantes

« My husband, Professor Alain Bechetoille, born in Lisieux, France, former board member of the European Glaucoma Society, former President French Glaucoma Society, died in Cesena, Italy, on the March 4, 2019.

Distinguished professor, Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes academiques, foremost in Alain’s mind was always the care of his patients. Alain also took the greatest interest in the next generation, in particular, he selected the brightest and most talented ophthalmologists, including some of the youngest, infusing them with his passion, and his standards for rigorous discipline, to improve the world of glaucoma.

To be in Alain’s presence was to have the illusion, especially for me, that we were all equal to his intellectual force. Alain’s conversant wit was as engaging as it was wide-ranging, even beyond science, politics, and literature. He was a connoisseur of wine, who enjoyed a good Cote Rotie as much as almost any grand Bordeaux. In Angers, where he was Chef de Service CHU Angers, Alain was also a modern art gallerist. Travel nourished his deep understanding of art, either as an itinerant ophthalmologist or pilgrim. So, not surprisingly, Alain enthusiastically moved to Italy in the fall of 2017.

Although Alain lamented that reading had become a far less common, his preferred predacious pastime, it is perhaps as a historian of glaucoma that he may be most remembered. Alain grew up mining the family library of Chateau de Japperenard in Ardeche, that he would inherit from his great grandfather Doctor Henri DesGrandes, which included an original set of the Encyclopedie of M. Diderot, 1778, among other tomes.

In Alain’s last work Les Glaucomes Volumes I & II, was published in 2000, the first chapter, “From The Origins To The Future”, Alain translated from Greek, the tale of the boastful fisherman Glaucus, “ …having spent time in the company of Neptune, Amphytrite …& the Tritons.” Plato and Aristotle were also invoked in describing a specific color, glaukotera then glaukos, made from a mixture of white and blue, hence Alain’s Glaucos-Bechetoille blue paintings. Plautus had one of his characters say, “By ingenious stratums we will cast glaucoma on his eyes…”, Alain posited that it would appear to mean blinding someone. We cannot “cast glaucoma” or blind ourselves to Alain’s glaukophtalmic version of history, nor his scientific research, that you, dear friends & colleagues, continue to write today.

I saw for myself the electricity that Alain’s presence ignited on the dais, at a dinner or cafe table, or as Eros.When Alain was rendered aphasic, alone inside his vast universe of thought with inexpressible words, it was the artist’s voice that emerged. The artist Francois Morellet commented after seeing Alain’s work, “That worked!” Adding that, “The titles are shocking.” It was the beginning of Alain’s life as a Conceptual Artist in Science. I was struck, when Alain when he signed his paintings, “bechetoille” with a humble lowercase “b” with an amused smile. So now I don’t know, perhaps Alain will be most remembered through his painting dialogues with artists such as Francois Morellet, Hans Hartung or Theo Van Doesburg.

I was recently reminded by a dear friend of a question he had asked me years ago, “Are you happy?” I had responded, “No.” What I learned from Alain, your confrere, friend and colleague was that happiness is fleeting. Gratitude, solidarity, and love, on the other hand, can deepen with time.

Alain’s life could be told as a Greek tragedy, yet if happiness is fleeting, then, too, is the sadness we all feel. We will miss the flash of Alain’s broad smile especially at himself when he was being satirized or when he did the satirizing, honestly thinking we would as amused as he was. We will miss the supreme pleasure he seized from every aspect of life.We will even miss his weaknesses, his contempt for ineptitude, and his silent courage to face being thought of as lesser in other’s eyes. We were lucky to have had him, to share his passion for the beauty this world brings to those of us with eyes to see. « 

Thérèse Marie Elton Béchetoille, 
March 26, 2019

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