Nuits by Rita Letendre

Rita Letendre

Nuits, 1958
oil on canvas
12.5″ x 17.75″

Artist Collection, Montreal
Moore Gallery, Toronto
Mann Collection since 1990, St. Catharines

In the late 1950s Rita Letendre abandoned the confines of geometric works and began studying the ideas of Zen and Confucius; these ideas began to translate into her paintings characterized by lines and strokes in black and white. Impressed by the works of the Abstract Expressionists in New York, in particular Franz Kline, Letendre would incorporate these elements and themes into her works. Nuits, 1958 was painted during this period where she started increasing the gestural quality in her works, characterized with heavy impasto with a palette knife or spatula. At this time, Letendre began to come into her own, winning first prize in the Concours de la Jeune Peinture in 1959 and the Prix Rodolphe-de-Repentigny in 1960. Much like her contemporary, Automatiste Jean-Paul Riopelle the palette knife allowed for spontaneity, capturing a truly intuitive moment that Surrealism hoped to access by tapping into the unconscious realm. This painting captures a truly energetic and exciting time in the artist’s career. Nuit, 1958 is a prized jewel, treasured by the artist until it was purchased in 1990 through the Moore Gallery.

About the Artist:
Rita Letendre was born on November 1, 1928 in Drummondville, Québec, to an Abenaki mother and Québécois father. The youngest of seven children, she lived with her maternal grandmother for a few years before her family relocated to Montréal in 1941. Letendre attended the École des Beaux-Arts for nearly two years before she began her career in abstract painting. She is the recipient of the 2010 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts, 2016 Paul-Émile-Borduas Award, and is a member of the Orders of Canada, Ontario and Québec. She has had over sixty solo shows and her works are in the collections of numerous Canadian and American museums, including the National Gallery of Canada.

By the late 1950s, she had begun to show in New York, at both Parma Gallery and Canada House, and in 1959 her work was included in The Third Biennial Exhibition of Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada. In 1960, the NGC organized the exhibition Non-Figurative Artists of Montreal, which travelled to other venues in Canada and solidified Letendre’s place in the forefront of Canadian non-figurative abstraction. Several other important shows followed, including several annual exhibitions at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and her first solo show which was held at the Here and Now Gallery in Toronto. Letendre has won numerous important painting prizes in Montreal including the Young Painters Prize in 1959 and the Rodolphe de Repentigny Prize in 1960, as well as the Province of Quebec Award in 1962. In Canada, her recognition is wide, and her international reputation reaches to Japan and France. She is an officer of the Order of Canada and was awarded the Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts in 2010 and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.