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William Perehudoff (1918-2013)
“My paintings carry no other message but the surprise, spontaneity and optimism of colour.” (1)
-William Perehudoff, on his own paintings, 1967.
Born in Saskatoon in 1918, William Perehudoff’s artistic career spanned more than seven decades.Perehudoff exhibited in major international cities including London, Paris, New York, Toronto and Chicago. His paintings are housed in the collections of prestigious Canadian institutions including the National Gallery of Canada and the Museum of Civilization, as well as notable private and corporate collections and foundations. Perehudoff was a member of the Order of Canada and the Royal Academy of Art, held an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Regina, received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Beginning his career in the early 1940s, Perehudoff carried on a dialogue with both American colour field and European abstract movements. By 1949, he was studying in New York with Amédéé Ozenfant, who founded the Purist Movement c.1918 with Le Corbusier. Another shift in Perehudoff’s paintings took place after meeting Clement Greenberg in 1962. Greenberg, known for ‘Greenbergian principals’ in the 50’s and 60’s, was the most important art critic of the New York School of Painting.Meetings with Greenberg in New York and at the Emma Lake Workshops in Saskatchewan contributed to Perehudoff’s focus on formalist abstraction.
In The Globe and Mail, Alan Hustak states, “Mr. Perehudoff’s career got a boost when Mr. Greenberg declared that his work ranked with that of Jack Bush, who was then the leading Canadian expressionist.” (2) Most recently, “The Optimism of Colour: William Perehudoff, a retrospective” opened at the Mendel Art Gallery in October 2010 and toured across Canada for two years with exhibitions at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, the Art Gallery of Windsor, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, ON and the Kamloops Art Gallery.This exhibition was accompanied by an illustrated book, "The Optimism of Colour: William Perehudoff, a retrospective" with essays by curators Roald Nasgaard, Karen Wilkin and artist Robert Christie.
William Perehudoff's paintings are described by esteemed NYC art critic Karen Wilkin:
“Perehudoff’s abstractions (…) are self-evidently autonomous constructions in the language of paint, deliberately detached from explicit reference. Their aim is plainly not to replicate appearances but rather to stir our emotions through wordless relationships of colour, eloquent intervals, thoughtfully deployed shapes, and nuanced surfaces.” (3)
(1) Eleven Saskatchewan Artists, intro. By John Climer [Saskatoon: Mendel Art Gallery, 1976], n.p.
(2) Alan Hustak, “From wheat fields to colour fields”, The Globe and Mail, Thursday, March 14, 2013, Obituaries, S6
(3) Karen Wilkin, “William Perehudoff: The Evolution of an Artist”, The Optimism of Colour: William Perehudoff, a retrospective” (Saskatoon, Mendel Art Gallery, 2010), 15