Rita Letendre, known as a pioneer in Canadian abstract art, died at the age of 93

Rita Letendre, known as a pioneer in Canadian abstract art, has died.

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

The painter, muralist and graphic artist became prominent in the 1950s for his 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, distinguishing herself 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 and received commission for major projects, including a mural at Ryerson University and the stained glass skylights at Glencairn Subway Station.

Some of Rita Letendre’s large canvases 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 across the globe and she has won honors, including a 2010 Governor-General Award for Visual and Media Arts, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and the Paul-Émile-Borduas Award in 2016.

Letendre was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2005 as “one of the leading figures in modern painting in Canada.”

Her works are in collections of several institutions, including National Museum of Fine Arts in Quebec, Art Gallery of Ontario and National Gallery of Canada.

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