Montreal

Rita Letendre, renowned as a pioneer of Canadian abstract art, dead at 93

Rita Letendre experimented with form and technique throughout her career, setting herself apart with her bold palette and geometric style, as exemplified by her recurring motif of arrows.

Quebec artist known for her bold palette was associated with Les Automatistes movement

Artist Rita Letendre has died at the age of 93. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Rita Letendre, renowned as a pioneer of Canadian abstract art, has died.

Gallery Gevik in Toronto says Letendre died Saturday at age 93 after a long illness.

The painter, muralist and printmaker rose to prominence in the 1950s for her association with Quebec's influential abstract artist groups, Les Automatistes and Les Plasticiens.

Born in Drummondville, Letendre was Abenaki. She studied at the École des beaux-arts in Montreal in the late 1940s and had Paul-Émile Borduas as a mentor.

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

She continued to experiment with form and technique throughout her career, setting herself apart with her bold palette and geometric style, as exemplified by her recurring motif of arrows.

Letendre also had a hand in shaping Toronto's public art, receiving commissions for large-scale projects including a mural at Ryerson University and the stained-glass skylights of Glencairn subway station.

Some of Rita Letendre's large canvasses were on display this summer at the Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent in Rivière-du-Loup. (Claude Brunet/Radio-Canada)

Her works have been exhibited around the globe, and she racked up honours including a 2010 Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and the Paul-Émile-Borduas Award 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.''

Her works are in the collections of numerous institutions, including the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada.

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