Artwork by Rita Letendre,  L’Enchenteur

Rita Letendre

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1960 lower left; signed, titled and dated 1960 on the reverse
14 x 16 ins ( 35.6 x 40.6 cms )

Sold for $17,250.00
Sale date: May 25th 2017

Private Collection, Calgary
Roald Nasgaard and Ray Ellenwood, Automatiste Revolution: Montreal, 1941-1960, Toronto, 2009, page 79
Roald Nasgaard, Abstract Painting in Canada, Toronto, 2007, page 174
Favouring a heavy application of paint with her early canvas works, Letendre oscillated between the palette knife and brush application of paint. A variety of textures was central to completed works with a mixture of sculptural areas of dimensional paint and smooth strokes. Exploration of the tactility of the medium, the importance of sharp contrast, and light and energy to evoke intense compositions, was integral of Letendre's work in the 1960s.

“L'Enchenteur” exemplifies the artist's commitment to dark tonalities sharply contrasted with light pigments to incite energy. This work at first presents a more subtle contrast between the dark brown and black pigments, however, upon further inspection, bright streaks of fiery orange and yellow seen at the lower edge of the composition begin to play off of the bright cobalt blue hues at the upper edge of the work. Balancing between these contrasting colours, two intentionally applied central forms of white over top of the black band of pigment anchor the composition. On Letendre's technique, Roald Nasgaard writes that this contrast is “deployed with dramatic expressiveness but occluding most vestiges of Automatiste illusionism.” In this sense, Letendre carved a unique space of her own in both the dialogue and representation of abstract art in Canada as a distinct and equal contributor to the discourse.

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Rita Letendre
(1928) RCA

Rita Letendre was born in Drummondville, Quebec, of Iroquois descent, in 1928, and moved with her parents to Montreal in 1941. Partly self taught she entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Montreal, where she studied for a year and a half. During her study at the Beaux-Arts, Borduas, Mousseau, and Ferron were in the midst of their revolution when they distributed pamphlets announcing where their paintings could be seen. It was at these stimulating exhibitions that Letendre found the possibilities of her own painting.

In 1952 and 1953 she exhibited with the Automatistes and in 1955 again with this group under the title “Espace 1955” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. In 1956 she shared a studio with Ulysse Comtois, painter and sculptor, and they and others were the subject of an article in Weekend Magazine on non-objective painters of Montreal. In 1959 her work was included in The Third Biennial Exhibition of Canadian Art. This was followed in 1960 by another important event the “Non-Figurative Artists of Montreal” a show organized by the National Gallery of Canada and put on the road to various centres across Canada. In 1962 Letendre received a travelling grant from the Canada Council and went to Paris, also Italy and Israel with side trips to Spain, Belgium and Germany.

Letendre would become a leading exponent of the abstract colourist movement. Over time, her work has evolved through various media, from brush to spatula, pastel, silkscreen, airbrush and back to pastel. Having participated in more than 65 solo exhibitions, her work encompasses monumental murals as large as 60 feet by 60 feet, down to the smallest silkscreen work. In the words of the artist: “My new pictures seem more aggressive, more intense, to me. I feel like a space pushing against its barriers. Light and colour, and sometimes the absence of colour, have always been the key elements in my painting. With its different values, colour reflects the shades of life. But light, from the first shock of birth to the last breath of life - light is my life.”

Rita Letendre’s artwork is widely collected throughout North America by governments, public galleries and private organizations. Her work has been exhibited internationally in major centres such as Paris, Rome, London, Tel Aviv, and Osaka. In North America, she has shown her work in such important art hubs as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume II”, compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979