Artwork by Rita Letendre,  Avril

Rita Letendre

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1958 lower right; signed, titled and dated on the reverse
12.5 x 17.5 ins ( 31.8 x 44.5 cms )

Auction Estimate: $22,000.00$18,000.00 - $22,000.00

Price Realized $14,375.00
Sale date: May 29th 2018

Galerie Simon Blais, Montreal
Mayberry Fine Art Gallery, Winnipeg/Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff, Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, 1983, pages 71-74
Roald Nasgaard, Abstract Painting in Canada, Toronto, 2007, page 174
Roald Nasgaard and Ray Ellenwood, Automatiste Revolution: Montreal, 1941-1960, Toronto, 2009, page 79
As a follower of Paul-Émile Borduas and the Automatiste mandates, Rita Letendre’s early works from the late 1950s showcase an iconic impasto application of paint influenced by her fellow Automatiste painters from Montreal. A leader in the colourist movement within the canon of abstract painting in Canada, Letendre sought to explore the effects and limits of light and energy through non-figurative painting. The contrast between light and dark tones of pigment were paramount to the artist's work of the time. Rather than restrict the palette to white and black dualities, Letendre committed to using a variety of colour and tone to create energy emanating from the canvas.

“Avril” employs a decidedly fresh palette of chartreuse, coral and aqua blues combined with whites and blacks in a spring-like array of light energy. Emanating from the lower right corner of the composition is the heavier blacks and earth tones, balancing the upper left corner of white pigment. Letendre has used the palette knife to create generous strokes of equally weighted forms of thick pigment to cover the canvas plane. With a keen eye for movement, the artist has integrated a balanced pattern of colour and light within the tight image frame. There is an intimacy with the material that can be inferred through “Avril” with the artist’s skillful and intentional application of balanced colour.

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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.