Rita Letendre 1928 - Canadian oil on canvas Les nuits 36 1/2 x 49 1/2 inches 92.7 x 125.7 centimeters signed and dated 1962 and on verso signed, titled and dated Literature:The National Gallery of Canada, ""Cybermuse"", a related work entitled Atara, 1963, reproduced at cybermuse.gallery.ca (accessed February 21, 2011) Provenance:M. Gérard Lortie, Montreal Edgar and Dorothy Davidson, Montreal and then moving to Ottawa in 1972 Painted during an intense and pivotal period in Rita Letendre's distinguished career, Les nuits is one of several images from the early 1960s that show both her connection to the most radical currents in Canadian art of the time and her independent style of abstract painting. She studied under Paul-Émile Borduas in Montreal and exhibited with the Automatists in the 1950s. Some years later, Letendre exhibited with the artists who later formed Quebec's equally influential group of abstractionists, the Plasticiens. Les nuits articulates a powerful visual language that is also developed in related paintings such as Atara, 1963, in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, and Rencontre en flammé, 1962, lot 62 in this sale. These canvases share a bold contrast of light and dark that Letendre employs to create a cave-like depth. Against these deep and mysterious areas she opposes a playful and electrifying blue and white motif that is surrounded by flame-like forms. While these elements are used in several works, each painting is strikingly individual because of the ways that the central forms behave. Les nuits is especially dynamic, with the left-of-centre blue figure seeming to extend itself to the right by flinging a small blue messenger into the void. Letendre's gesture with the palette knife is clearly visible here, yet the shape takes on its own life. The canvas suggests a struggle of forms but also registers the ultimate emergence of the blue motif. Les nuits implies the presence of primordial forces. We thank Mark Cheetham, Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto, for contributing the above essay.