In 1949, at the age of 21, Rita Letendre quit her studies at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal, frustrated by the constraints imposed by the formal education system. A determined young woman, she soon met Paul-Émile Borduas and the Automatistes, who would be a tremendous source of inspiration. Her work was first noticed in 1954 during a pivotal exhibition organized by the poet Claude Gauvreau titled, La matière chante. The following year, she exhibited at the Galerie L’Échourie. In 1961, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presented a selection of her large-format works, an event that would launch her on a long and prolific career with many exhibitions around the world.
A key figure in the abstract art movement in Canada, the painter, printmaker, and muralist was awarded the Order of Canada, the Ordre national du Québec, and the Order of Ontario. She is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and a companion of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. She has received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts, and an honorary doctorate from the Université de Montréal. Today, her works enrich the most important public and private art collections. A bold and audacious artist, Letendre has reinvented herself over time, between movement, colour, and light, while maintaining her strong and distinctive identity. The artist died on November 20th, 2021, in Toronto.