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 )

Sold for $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) RCA

Rita Letendre was born in Drummondville, Quebec in 1928, and moved with her parents to Montreal in 1941. Beginning her career as an artist during the 1950s and early 1960s in Montreal, she participated in the Automatiste movement and painted with that intuitive strategy.  She 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.