Artwork by Rita Letendre,  Rencontre

Rita Letendre

oil on canvas
signed, titled and dated 1964 on the reverse
18 x 20 ins ( 45.7 x 50.8 cms )

Auction Estimate: $30,000.00$20,000.00 - $30,000.00

Price Realized $23,000.00
Sale date: May 31st 2016

Private Collection, Toronto
“Rita Letendre and Ulysse Comtois”, Canadian Art, January/February 1964, page 11
David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff, “Contemporary Canadian Art”, Toronto, 1983, pages 71-74
Roald Nasgaard, “Abstract Painting in Canada”, Toronto, 2007, page 174
Beginning as an Automatiste painter in the 1950s, Letendre was influenced by Paul-Emile Borduas' revolutionary non-figurative paintings of the period. Taking the lead from the Montreal modern painters of the time, the artist became a leader in the colourist movement. Using a variety of applicators, Letendre fluctuated between brush and spatula to apply thick layers of paint to achieve varying textures on the canvas, always mindful of the gesture of the artist’s hand moving the paint. Working into the mid 1960s with this gestural abstraction, the artist focused on dark tonality interrupted with bursts of colour to create contrast and evoke an assertive energy in the sweeping application.

Dramatic and evocative, “Rencontre’s” bright ochres and yellows shoot out diagonally from the central blue form with areas scraped from the canvas with a spatula, released from the immersive dark background. Here, the viewer bears witness to the artist’s use of one point perspective and emphasis on colour to produce distinct energy, practices which influenced her work in the years that followed. “Canadian Art” describes Letendre's “vehemence of her gesture and her voluptuous love of the matière.” The title of the piece, translating to “encounter”, is fitting as the viewer not only has a visual encounter with the work, but also a conjured feeling and energy emoting from the canvas.

A similar work also entitled “Rencontre” (1964) is pictured in David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff’s Contemporary Canadian Art, page 71.

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Rita Letendre
(1928 - 2021) RCA

Canadian painter, muralist, and printmaker Rita Letendre was born in Drummondville, Quebec, in 1928. She is of Iroquois descent. Letendre and her parents moved to Montreal in 1941. She settled in Toronto in 1963. In part, Letendre is self-taught but she studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Montreal for year and a half. While in school she was introduced to the Automatistes due to pamphlets announcing the locations of their new paintings.

Encouraged by Borduas, Mosseau, and Ferron’s art, Letendre began exploring similar motifs in her paintings and began exhibiting with the group from 1952-55. In 1955 she exhibited in “Espace 1955” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Sharing a studio with fellow Automatiste painter and sculptor, Ulysse Comtois, Letendre became the subject of an article by the Weekend Magazine on non-objective Montreal-based painters. Then, in 1959, Letendre was included in the Third Biennial Exhibition of Canadian Art. In the following year the National Gallery of Canada included Letendre in their Non-Figurative Artists of Montreal exhibit that traveled throughout Canada. In 1962, Letendre received a travelling grant from the Canada Council and traveled to Paris, Italy, Israel, Spain, Belgium, and Germany.

Using a variety of techniques and media such as brush, spatula, pastel, silkscreen, and airbrush, Letendre was a leading member of the colourist movement. Exhibited in over sixty-five solo exhibitions, Letendre’s work can be described in three distinct periods. Her first period, known as the Montreal years, was inspired by her first meeting with Borduas and was a rich exploration of self-discovery. Letendre’s second period was inspired by Russian-born sculptor Kosso Eloul, who later became her husband. Her final period was rooted in mourning and love.

Letendre’s works vary in size from grand murals that are sixty feet by sixty feet in size to small projects on silkscreen. These works are collected throughout the North American continent by governments and public and private galleries and organizations. Letendre’s work has been exhibited in Europe, Israel, Japan, and throughout North America in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Literature Sources:
"A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume II”, compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979
Roumanes, Jacques-Bernard. “Rita Letendre: Le tableau ivre.” Vie des Arts 45, 183, 2001
Andersen, Marguerite. “Rita Letendre: Énergie et luminosité. L’art du féminin, 12 2004

We extend our thanks to Danie Klein, York University graduate student in art history, for writing and contributing this artist biography.