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Drummondville, Quebec, 1929
Toronto, Ontario, 2021
Biography synopsis
Recognised for her large-scale abstract paintings and public art murals, Rita Letendre also worked in printmaking (serigraphie). Following a classical art education at the Ecole des Beaux Arts de Montreal (1948-51), she turned to abstraction after attending the Automatist exhibition "L’Exposition des Rebelles" (1949). Letendre considered Paul-Emile Borduas, leader of the Automatistes, to have had a deep influence on her approach to painting. Her work was included in the Automatist group show “La Matiere Chante” (1954) at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. She later worked with Guido Molinari and the Plasticiens, turning to hard edge and geometrical abstraction paintings suffused with movement and light. In 1962, a bursary allowed her to study in Europe where she met and married Israeli sculptor Kosso Eloui. In 1963 they lived in Montreal but moved to Los Angeles in 1965 before settling in Toronto in 1970. She received her first commission for a large-scale public work "Sun Forces," created for California State University. Between 1965-1980 she received numerous commissions for large murals in the United States and Canada. Retrospectives of her prodigious production included the Musee nationale des beaux arts du Quebec (2002-03), the Art Gallery of Ontario (2017), and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (2019). She was a recipient of the Order of Canada (2005), the Governor-General's Award (2010), the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012) and the Paul-Émile Borduas Award (2016) for her contributions to art in Quebec. Through her long career she had seventy solo shows and participated in over fifty group shows in Canada, the U.S., Europe, Japan and Israel. In 2018, an exhibition of the nearly dozen Toronto public art works lost to city renovation projects was held; it included a recent restoration of a 1997 work that incorporated stained glass.
Media used
Mural painting and decoration
Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Montreal, 1948 - 1951 (under Jacques de Tonnancour)
Association des artistes non-figuratifs de Montréal
File & Archive locations
Art Gallery of Ontario - Edward P. Taylor Research Library and Archives
Artexte Information Centre, QC - Documentation Centre
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
Hamilton Public Library, ON - Local History and Archives Department
London Public Library, ON
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts / Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, QC
Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, QC - Media Centre
National Gallery of Canada, ON - Library and Archives
University of British Columbia - Fine Arts Library
University of Calgary Library, AB
Vancouver Art Gallery, BC - Library
Winnipeg Art Gallery, MA - Clara Lander Library
University of Manitoba - Architecture and Fine Arts Library
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC
Detroit Institute of Arts

Writings about
Painter Rita Letendre on her work in 1969 (video) Toronto, Ontario: CBC Canadian Broadcast Corporation, 1969
Rita Letendre: ode à Isis : tableaux récents et rétrospective / Rita Letendre : an ode to Isis : recent paintings and a retrospective. Montreal, Quebec: Galerie Simon Blais, 2003
Andersen, Marguerite. "Rita Letendre: Energie et Luminosite." Liaison 122 (Spring 2004): 8-10
Arbour, Rose-Marie and Suzanne Lemerise. "Le rôle des Québécoises dans les arts plastiques depuis trente ans." Vie des Arts 20.78 (1975): 16-24
Asselin, Hedwidge. Rita Letendre: les elements/ The elements Montreal, Quebec: Galerie Simon Blais, 2001
Asselin, Hedwidge and Francois-Marc Gagnon. Feu et esprit / Fire and Spirit: Rita Letendre Baie-Saint-Paul, Qc: Centre d'exposition de Baie-Saint-Paul, 2002
Couture, Francine, et al.. Les Arts visuels au Québec dans les années soixante: La Reconnaissance de la modernité. Montréal, Quebec: VLB Éditeur, 1993
Ellenwood, Ray. Rita Letendre Toronto, Ontario: Gallery Gevik, 2010
Helwig, Kate, et al.. "Rita Letendre’s Oil Paintings from the 1960s: The Effect of Artist’s Materials on Degradation Phenomena." Studies in Conservation, v66 n2 (20210217): 64-78 66.2 (2021): 64-78
Henault, Gilles. Rita Letendre Palm Stprings, CA: Palm Springs Desert Museum, 1974
Humber, Larry. "‘A Master of Fire and Light’: Quebec-born Abstractionist Rita Letendre has died aged 93." The Art Newspaper 23 Nov. 2021
Jacob, Luis. Form follows Fiction: Art and Artists in Toronto. London, England: Black Dog Press & Art Gallery University of Toronto, 2020
Jansma, Linda. Rita Letendre: Beginnings in Abstraction. Oshawa, Ontario: Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2005
Jukes, Mary. "Once over Lightly." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 26 Mar. 1962
Klunder, Harold and Ann Beam. Intervention: 31 Femmes peintres/ 31 Women Painters Montreal: Visual Arts Centre, 2018
Lambton, Gunda. Stealing the Show: Seven Women Artists in Canadian Public Art Montreal, QC: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994.
Lauder, Adam. Rita Letendre: Toronto Public Art. Toronto, Ontario: YYZ Artist Outlet, May 11, 2018
Lauder, Adam. "Rita Letendre’s Astral Abstractions." The American Indian Quarterly 46. 1-2 (Winter Spring) 2022: 94-122
Lauder, Adam. "The World must have Poetry." Canadian Art 32.4 (Winter 2016): 114-119
MacDonald, Colin S. The Dictionary of Canadian Artists. (Volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker) Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2009.
Newlands, Anne. Canadian Art: From its Beginnings to 2000 Richmond Hill, Ontario: Firefly Books, 2000
Ninacs, Anne-Marie. Rita Letendre: aux couleurs du jour Quebec, Quebec: Musee nationale des beaux arts du Quebec, 2003
Paikowsky, Sandra. Rita Letendre: The Montreal Years/ Les annees montrealaises , 1953-1963 Montreal, Quebec: Galerie d'art Concordia, 1989
Pope, Doug. Vibrations & Disruptions: a reading based on Gilles Deleuze Concerning motion in the art work of Rita Letendre, Serge Lemoyene and Claude Tousignant. Montreal, Quebec: Concordia University (MA), 2007
Power, Nadine. Marcelle Ferron and Rita Letendre: a technical comparison of two modern Canadian artists London, England: Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 2007
Repentigny, R. de. "Images et plastiqes: Douceur, feu et affirmation." La Presse (Montreal) 1 Nov. 1958
Roberge, Gaston. Femme de lumiere: Rita Letendre Laval, Quebec: Les 400 coups, 1997
Roumanes, Jacques-Bernard. “Rita Letendre: Le Tableau Ivre.” Vie Des Arts 45.183 (April 2001): 39-42
Saucier, Pierre. "Jeunes peintres au travail." Vie des arts 22(Spring 1961): 37–45
Tippett, Maria. By A Lady: Celebrating Three Centuries of Art by Canadian Women. Toronto and London: Viking, 1992
Trepanier, Esther and Landry, Pierre. Femmes artistes du XXe siecle au Quebec: Oeuvres du Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec. Quebec, Quebec: Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec, 2010.
Uhlyarik, Georgiana , Nanibush, Wanda and Rita Letendre. Rita Letendre: Fire & Light. Toronto, Ontario: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2017
Vanderborght, Karen and Simon Madore. "Rita Letendre : Artist-painter." Carte de Visite Toronto, Ontario: Groupe Media TFO, 2014

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