The accompanying book-length catalogue, written in English and translated into French, is a lavishly illustrated account of Perehudoff’s career. It is the most comprehensive overview to date of the artist’s early work in conjunction with his later abstract paintings. The catalogue contains essays by Karen Wilkin, Roald Nasgaard, and Robert Christie. The catalogue is available for purchase in the Gallery Shop at the Mendel Art Gallery.
The Optimism of Colour: William Perehudoff, a retrospective
[L’optimisme de la couleur: William Perehudoff, une rétrospective]
Table of Contents / Table des matières
Director’s Foreword / Avant-propos du directeur
Vincent J. Varga
William Perehudoff : The Evolution of the Artist
William Perehudoff : l’évolution d’un artiste
The Early Work of William Perehudoff : The murals, a preliminary report
Les premières œuvres de William Perehudoff : les murales, un rapport préliminaire
Lessons from Bill
Les leçons de Bill
Artist’s Chronology / Chronologie de l’artiste
Selected Bibliography / Bibliographie sommaire
Public and Corporate Collections / Collections publiques et d’entreprises
List of Works / Les Oeuvres
Acknowledgements / Remerciements
Since its inception in 1964, the Mendel Art Gallery has actively fostered and championed the development of diverse and resonant approaches to art making in Saskatchewan. In this context, the career of artist William Perehudoff – an unparalleled creative force, mentor to a generation of artists, and important friend of the arts in a nascent prairie cultural scene – remains one of the gallery’s greatest histories. The rising national prominence of Saskatoon, Emma Lake, and the Mendel Art Gallery during the 1960s and 1970s parallels and, to a significant degree, is a result of Perehudoff’s emergence on the national and international art scene, where he was garnering acclaim and accolades from artists and critics alike. It was an exciting time in Canada, when cosmopolitanism was infused with the realities of geography, an influx of immigrants, and the beginnings of official multiculturalism and bilingualism in Canada. Life on the prairies would never be the same again, and Perehudoff seized the opportunity to observe the world in fresh ways through his tireless exploration of colour and form.
For six decades, since his first solo exhibition in 1950, the work of the Saskatchewan painter William Perehudoff has embodied the highest standards of aesthetic seriousness and excellence. His impressive reputation extends widely. He is celebrated not only in his native Prairie region, but also across Canada, and in the United States and Great Britain. In 2010, this distinguished artist turned ninety-two. While his work has been seen in numerous group and solo exhibitions over the past three decades or so, no comprehensive survey of Perehudoff’s career has been organized, until now. The exhibition The Optimism of Colour: William Perehudoff, a retrospective, guest-curated for the Mendel Art Gallery by Karen Wilkin, and this accompanying catalogue celebrate Perehudoff’s achievements and trace the evolution of his distinctive approach, from his early figurative works, which reflect his desire to enlarge upon the special character of his surroundings, to the radiant, abstract paintings that established his reputation – paintings that seem to aspire to the condition of music.
As writers Karen Wilkin and Roald Nasgaard both discuss, William Perehudoff’s story is at once extremely remarkable and yet emblematic of an aspiring young artist growing up in a relatively isolated place, far away from the centres of avant-garde art production. His practice was developed through a combination of self-education, the examples of local mentors, formal study abroad, travel, the encouragement of local patrons, regional connections, and close contact with colleagues and peers internationally. A lifelong resident of Saskatchewan, Perehudoff was born in 1918 in a Russian-speaking Doukhobor farming community not far from Saskatoon. Both the visual marvels of the prairie landscape and the work ethic extolled by his forbears greatly influenced his practice. Throughout his long career as an artist, he continued to farm along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, all the while maintaining a successful career as a commercial artist, without compromising his dedication to making ambitious paintings that have been celebrated internationally.
The Optimism of Colour: William Perehudoff, a retrospective brings together an outstanding array of the works that Perehudoff was most famous for – luminous, abstract paintings that are understood to be part of what’s known as the Colour Field movement. The exhibition at once demonstrates Perehudoff’s contribution to this movement and underscores his originality and individuality. A selection of his early, figurative and landscape works, along with representations of his celebrated murals for the former Intercontinental Packers Ltd. factory, are also included. All of his work is discussed in detail in this catalogue in outstanding essays by the exhibition curator, Karen Wilkin, and contributors Roald Nasgaard and Robert Christie. Together, they situate Perehudoff’s work and career within the context of the Saskatoon arts community, regional Canadian art, and the community of his international peers. I thank all the writers for their essays in this catalogue, and extend further gratitude to Robert Christie for his hard work on the production of Perehudoff’s chronology and bibliography.
On behalf of the Mendel Art Gallery, I would like to extend heartfelt thanks to the artist’s family – his wife, the painter Dorothy Knowles, and their daughters, Catherine Pereduoff, Carol Perehudoff, and Rebecca Perehudoff, for their diligent reading of the essays, and their support and encouragement of both the writers and the exhibition organizers.
The Mendel Art Gallery would like to acknowledge the support of Canadian Heritage through the Museums Assistance Program, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Saskatchewan Arts Board and the City of Saskatoon for their generous financial support in the production of this exhibition and accompanying publication. In addition the Gallery would like to extend special thanks to an Anonymous donor for contributing significantly to the production of this book.
Finally, I would like to thank the staff of the Mendel Art Gallery for their commitment to this singular project that celebrates the work and life of a remarkable Canadian artist. Special thanks to Dan Ring, Chief Curator, for committing the Gallery to take on this ambitious project, and to Eve Kotyk, Collection Manager, who facilitated loans for the exhibition prior to her retirement in May 2009. I also thank Curatorial Assistant Troy Mamer for his assistance in all aspects of the exhibition coordination, and Jen Budney, the Mendel’s Associate Curator, who edited this publication and oversaw the details of the book’s design and production. We all extend our gratitude to translator Gaétane Bélanger and designer Susan Schafe for their work on this title.
- Vincent Varga, Executive Director & CEO, Mendel Art Gallery