|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Rita Letendre is a painter, printmaker and muralist. She was born
in Drummondville, Quebec. Her family moved to Montreal in 1941, where
she lived until 1962. During the 1960s she lived in Paris,
France; Rome, Italy; Tel Aviv, Israel and Los Angeles, California
(1). In 1970, she moved to Toronto, Ontario, which is where she
currently (November 2009) lives and works.|
Her mediums include oil, acrylic, gouache, watercolour, pastel, lithography*, serigraphy* and silkscreen*. Her oils and acrylics have been applied by several methods over the years including brush, airbrush*,
spatula, palette knife, hands and fingernails. Being a life long
abstractionist, she focuses on colour, shape and texture.
Quote: "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
Her primary styles are Automatism*, Lyrical Abstraction*, Abstract Expressionism* and Hard Edge Abstraction*. Cool and Meandre (see AskART image examples) are good illustrations of her early work, and Sunburst, Reflet, Klinkit, Meditation and Chi-Sa-Kaan
(see AskART image examples) are good illustrations of her most
recognizable style, the hard-edged triangular forms done in the 1960s,
70s and 80s.
Quote: "My painting is non-figurative, abstract, maybe it's
lyrical. All the terminology is not important. What is
important is the actual painting. When you're looking at the
painting you're looking at something real, and that's what counts." -
She is mostly self-taught. Her formal art education consisted of
a year and a half at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Montreal (1948 -
1950). She left the school and became associated with the
avant-garde art revolution that was taking place in Montreal, at that
time, largely under the leadership of Paul-Emile Borduas (see AskART)
and Les Automatistes* (2).
Quote: “Borduas made you think he made you analyse yourself. And that
is the most important thing (about him)…He said 'to be a great artist
you have to have an understanding of your own feelings in order to
express them'; he was a Zen master.” – Rita Letendre.
Her travels include a two year (1962 - 1963) trip to France, Belgium,
Germany, Italy, Spain and Israel (3) and a two year stay in Los Angeles
(1965 - 1966).
Letendre is not frequently identified as a member of any artist
organization; however, the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA) lists
her as a member, the Art Gallery of Ontario identifies her as a member
of the Association des artistes non - figuratifs de Montreal (AANFM),
and the Westbridge Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (see AskART Book references) identifies her as a member of Canadian Artists Representation (CARFAC).
She began exhibiting in 1952 with Les Automatistes in small venues like
bookstores and restaurants. “Espace 55” (1955) at the Montreal Museum
of Fine Arts was one of her first major group exhibitions at a public
venue. Since then her group exhibitions have included, three
Biennials of Canadian Painting at the National Gallery of Canada,
Ottawa (1959, 1963,1968); "Non-Figurative Artists of Montreal” also at
the National Gallery of Canada (1960); “Twenty-Five Years of Painting
in French Canada" in Spoleto, Italy (1962); "Contemporary
Canadian Art" at the Tate Gallery, London (1963); the “Osaka Worlds
Fair“ (1970); the “18th National Print Show” at the Brooklyn Museum,
New York (1972); and “The Crisis of Abstraction” at the National
Gallery of Canada (1992). She has also exhibited in the 1960,
1961 and 1962 Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Spring shows; with the Royal
Canadian Academy of Arts in 1964, 1967 and 1970; and at the Museum of
Quebec (Quebec City) in 1973.
She has had over 60 solo exhibitions in private and public galleries
across Canada, the United States, in Europe and in Israel. Her
first solo exhibition at a major museum was at the Montreal Museum of
Fine Arts in 1961. She also showed her work jointly with Ulysse
Comtois (see AskART) at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1962.
Recently, the Museum of Quebec held a retrospective of her works, in
2003, titled “Rita Letendre, Aux Couleurs du Jour” which travelled to
the Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba) in 2005. Also, in 2005, the
Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario) held a retrospective titled
“Rita Letendre, Beginnings in Abstraction”.
Her work is in many private and corporate collections. It is also
in numerous public collections including, the Montreal Museum of
Contemporary Art, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of
Quebec, the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Long Beach Museum of
Fine Arts (California), the Speed Art Museum (Louisville, Kentucky),
the Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), the Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina,
Saskatchewan), the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg,
Ontario), the Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery, the San Diego Museum
of Art (California), the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), the
Ottawa Art Gallery (Ontario), the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Art Gallery
of Mississauga (Ontario), the Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, New
Brunswick) and many more.
Examples of her murals can be seen at the Exxon Building, New York;
Sheridan Mall, Pickering, Ontario; and the Toronto General
Hospital. Her first large scale (22’ X 21’) out door mural “Sunforce” (1965) is located at California State University, Long Beach (4). Her largest mural the 60’ X 60’ Sunrise
(1971) on the side of the Neill-Wycik Building, Toronto was recently
covered when the building underwent a major renovation in 2007.
Her numerous awards and honours include one of Canada’s highest honours
the Order of Canada OC (2005) and one of her home provinces highest
honours the Order of Quebec OQ (2002). She has also been awarded
a Canada Council Grant (1963); a Province of Quebec Arts Council Grant
(1967), the Rodolphe de Repentigny Prize (1960) and many more.
(1) While in Los Angeles she was a Guest Printer at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop* (1965) and at Gemini Ltd (1966).
(2) In the 1960s, she abandoned the gestural style of Les Automatistes
and began her most famous period producing hard edge paintings
following the direction of Les Plasticiens*.
(3) She travelled with her husband Ulysse Comtois (see AskART).
In Italy she met sculptor, Kosso Eloul (see AskART) whom she married in
(4) In 1965, professor Kenneth Glenn (see AskART) of California State
University at Long Beach and Kosso Eloul organized the “Long Beach
International Sculpture Symposium”. Patterned after several such
symposia held in Europe, the Long Beach symposium was the first event
of its kind held in the United States. More importantly, it was a
significant experiment in the formal collaboration of art and
technology. Each of the invited artists (selected from a
worldwide roster of distinguished sculptors) was paired with an
industrial sponsor who provided technological assistance in the form of
expertise, access to facilities, equipment, and materials. The
on-campus site also provided students with the opportunity to observe
and assist established artists in an environment that was very
different from the usual classroom activities.
The final result included works by Kengiro Azuma, Andre Bloc, Kosso
Eloul, Clare Falkenstein, Gabriel Kohn, Piotr Kowalski, Rita Letendre,
Robert Gray Murray (see all previous in AskART) and Joop J. Beljon (b.
1922), spread throughout the 322 acre campus. Since then more works
have been added. The collection currently includes additional
works by Woods Davy, Guy Dill, Bryan Hunt, Robert Irwin and Terry
Schoonhoven (see all in AskART); as well as works by Eugenia Butler,
Michael A. Davis, Frederick Fisher, Maren Hassinger, Tom Van Sant and
Richard Turner. Source: CSULB University Art Museum.
In Letendre’s case she was teamed with Flexcoat Corporation.
Special epoxy paints were chosen because they would bond chemically to
the surface and not fade, flake, chip or crack. The colours were
blended to Letendre’s specifications; she particularly wanted an
intense cadmium yellow*. The paint did not fulfill its promises
for durability and colour fastness; the work has since been
restored. Author's note: Cadmium Yellow pigments are not suitable
for exterior applications and for mural painting techniques. They
tend to discolour upon combined exposure to the light, water and CO2,
whereas if exposed to the same amount of light used on a canvas or
panel it has excellent permanence. Source: Artists’ Pigments. A Handbook of Their History and Characteristics
(1986), Vol. 1, L. Feller, Editor, Cambridge University Press, London,
(pgs 65 -108); and Pat Tonkin, Rona Home Centres, Paint Department.
* For more in-depth information about these terms and others,
see AskART Glossary
Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|