Rita Letendre, recognized as a pioneer of Canadian abstract art, died at 93


Rita Letendre, recognized as a pioneer of Canadian abstract art, has passed away.

According to the Gevik Gallery in Toronto, Letendre died at the age of 93 on Saturday after a long illness.

The painter, muralist and engraver became known in the 1950s thanks to her association with the groups of influential abstract artists of Quebec, Les Automatistes and Les Plasticiens.

Born in Drummondville, Letendre was Abénakis. She studied at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal in the late 1940s and was mentored by Paul-Émile Borduas.

Rita Letendre studied at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal in the late 1940s. (Sylvie-Anne Jeanson / Radio-Canada)

She continued to experiment with form and technique throughout her career, standing out with her bold palette and geometric style, as evidenced by her recurring pattern of arrows.

Letendre also helped shape Toronto’s public art, receiving commissions for large-scale projects including a mural at Ryerson University and the stained glass skylights at Glencairn subway station.

Some of Rita Letendre’s large canvases were exhibited this summer at the Bas-Saint-Laurent Museum in Rivière-du-Loup. (Claude Brunet / Radio-Canada)

Her works have been exhibited around the world and she has won accolades including a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2010, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, and the Paul-Émile Prize. Borduas in 2016.

Letendre was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2005 as “one of the leading figures of contemporary painting in Canada”.

His works are part of the collections of many institutions, including the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada.

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