Rita Letendre R.C.A.

Espace Retenu, 1964

oil on canvas
8.5x10.5 in.

signed and inscribed Paris 1964 to verso

Private collection, Quebec;
Masters Gallery Ltd., Calgary;
Private collection

In the early 1960s, Rita Letendre began to achieve great international success in her artistic practice that would cement her as a powerful force in Canadian Art. As a young artist in the 1950s, Letendre was influenced by Paul-Emile Borduas and the Automatistes in Montreal, where she began to create non-figurative abstract works using a palette knife. Starting in the mid 1950s, as the Automatistes began to meet less frequently, Letendre began to exhibit on her own with great success. Her production increased, and her practice evolved quickly; by the end of the decade, her compositions would become more deliberate and focused expressions of intense colour and light.

In 1962, Letendre received a Canada Council Grant which allowed her to travel to Europe for the first time. Throughout the remainder of the decade, she would find ways to travel, returning to Europe, and making work wherever she went. Espace Retenu, which translates to Retained Space, was painted in 1964 while the artist was staying in Paris. Here, Letendre presents a dramatic contrast between light and dark. Orangey red hues swirl against black in a mass on the left side of the canvas before exiting sharply down through the right lower corner of the picture plane. “I like to paint a heavy, strong, black mass”, she noted, “Then, out of a need for movement, colour stands out against it and streaks across it, a bit like the exhaust of a plane in the sky.”

Rita Letendre, painter, printmaker (b at Drummondville, Qué 1 Nov 1928). After study at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal, Letendre was influenced by Paul-Émile Borduas and the Automatistes. In 1962 she travelled in western Europe and Israel. Her new interest in more structured composition and simpler shapes was seen…