Artwork by Rita Letendre,  Manotik

Rita Letendre

acrylic on canvas
signed and dated 1977 lower right; signed, titled and dated 1977 on the reverse; unframed
36 x 52 ins ( 91.4 x 132.1 cms )

Auction Estimate: $15,000.00$12,000.00 - $15,000.00

Price Realized $20,400.00
Sale date: December 3rd 2020

Gallery Moos, Toronto
Private Collection, Naples
Joan Murray, “Canadian Art in the Twentieth Century”, Toronto, 1999, pages 99 and 122
Wanda Nanibush and Georgiana Uhlyarik, “Rita Letendre: Fire and Light”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2017, pages 17-19, 52 and 86-87
The utilization of the airbrush technique, combined with sharp wedges, or arrows, that cut across the image plane, have become the most sought-after elements in Rita Letendre’s body of work. Discussing these works produced by the artist during the 1970s, Joan Murray writes, “Rita Letendre explored colour, line and composition through the use of forceful chevrons that cut across the composition diagonally or horizontally from one corner of the painting to the other. She obtained extra energy from applying narrow ridges of contrasting colour to the borders of each ray.”

This marriage of hard-edge abstraction and airbrush came about in 1964 after Letendre began employing the use of arrows in her mural works. The artist explains: “At that time, I had started doing a series of black and white wedges, the wedge that became more and more arrows. Then at one moment I made lots of lines near the arrow to create a feeling of vibration, that must vibrate into space, the eternal space...the vibration of a space that moves...these arrows are moving through space. I wanted, by the speed of it, to create vibration around.” In reference to the mural works, Georgiana Uhlyarik argues that “her bold vectors of colour energized both streets and interior spaces with a glorious optimism and confidence that galvanized the city and its residents.”

“Manotik” captures the spirit of Letendre’s mural works with the immediately recognizable elements of the arrow and airbrush. The energy radiating from the image is paramount, as the sliver of a black wedge at the lower edge vibrates into increasingly wider bands of earthy browns and contrasting yellows, further enhancing the vigour in this work. The contrast of bordering bands of light and dark pigments combined with movement through the resulting vibration, all speak to the process of discovery for Letendre, both in her work and as an artist.

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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.