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Marianne Baillieu – A Life Well Lived.

March 7, 2012

“Blessed are the homesick, for they shall come home.”

Danish writer Isak Dinesen , Babette’s Feast and Other Anecdotes of Destiny

1996 Baillieu Marianne at Writers Fest Melbourne - By Joyce Evans Photographer

1996 Marianne Baillieu at Melbourne Writers Festival - By Joyce Evans Photographer

“Believe me! The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously!” Nietzsche.

I can’t say that I knew Marianne very well but her warmth and vitality was totally infectious. There seemed aspects of Marianne’s approach to life that I immediately recognized. Perhaps my own travels in Tibet and India gave me an appreciation of her search for meaning.

Marianne loved water. I know she was fond of whales but I always saw her as a dolphin, frolicking, full of fun with her enigmatic Mona Lisa smile. Like a dolphin she seemed to be in two worlds at once without being at home in either. When I recently visited Marianne in her Williamstown home I had come to give her a small collection of hats – we certainly shared a passion for hats. I was impressed with her paintings. Like Marianne herself her paintings were a riot of colour and movement.

Memorial Sevice

The memorial ceremony for Marianne at St Michael’s Uniting Church in Collins Street last Friday was wonderfully inclusive of so many different cultures and beliefs. From the haunting vibrations of the didgeridoo to deeply resonating Buddhist chants, the beautiful recorded Hindu prayer to Hanuman sung by Ram Dass, the mournful Maori farewell song of the sea, layered with Christian hymns – this was truly an interfaith service. Close friend of Marianne’s, Luba Bilu, told of many of the courageous, outrageous and just plain playful facets of Marianne’s quite extraordinary life. Artist John Wolseley referred to Marianne as a ‘vagabond’. Her nephew Ari Droga described her as ‘the divine and earthy aunt or tante as they say in Danish, an ‘irresistible force – a magical person who wore exotic fashion ensembles and who loved to dance. There was no doubt that the profusion of Sunflowers in the church was a fitting and joyous metaphor for a life well lived.

Alison & Sally Morrison

From the written selected events of her life in the memorial program we learnt about Marianne’s serious illnesses, of loss and death. Of her founding of Realities Gallery in 1971 in Ross Street, South Yarra, where artists like Ted May remembers wandering around in red socks – and then the move to bigger premises in Jackson Street Toorak in 1975-1980. Of her life as a prolific painter, of Marianne and Ian organizing a ‘world wide simultaneous meditations for peace’ under the Dali Lama’s auspices in 1991, 1994 and 2003, of her extensive travels echoing the peripatetic lifestyle started in her early life that took her from her native Denmark, to Sweden, America, New Zealand and Australia.

Alison Waters

Later at the celebratory wake at Melbourne’s Windsor Hotel I learnt more about Marianne’s generous way of living and of her vast array of friends from all walks of life. Many of them surmised that life would not be the same without Marianne.

A close friend of 50 years said “ life around Marianne was never boring”. She was obviously a woman who took hold of her own destiny and like an Isak Dinesen character from Babette’s Feast and Other Anecdotes of Destiny, Marianne learnt to shape it her way.

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