Perehudoff The Optimism of Colour: William Perehudoff, a retrospective

July 1–September 18, 2011

About the Exhibition

William Perehudoff, Colour Improvisation, 1967, Collection of the Mendel Art GalleryAt 93 years of age, William Perehudoff is one of the most influential senior abstract painters working in the Prairies. He enjoyed great success in New York and London in the 1970s and is best known for his work as a colour field painter.  With this work, colour is the subject of the painting, and the point of the painting; it's about the sheer beauty and impact of color on your senses and emotions and the tension created by overlapping and interacting areas of flat colour. 

The Optimism of Colour is a major retrospective exhibition with works spanning from 1945 to 2002. More than 60 artworks will be on display, drawn from rarely seen public and private Canadian collections, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada and the Collection Lavalin du Musee d'art contemporain de Montreal. The exhibition traces the evolution of Perehudoff's artistic approach and includes early figurative paintings, murals and works that reflect his transition into painting abstractions. In his later works, Perehudoff invites the viewer to revel in the beauty and joy of colour and shape. Even these abstract paintings evoke deep echoes of the Saskatchewan landscape, especially noticeable in his vibrant stripe paintings of the 1970s. It was these works which established the artist's reputation nationally and internationally.

William Perehudoff and his wife, the noted landscape painter Dorothy Knowles, were involved in the Emma Lake Artists' Workshops beginning in the late 1950s and continuing for 40 years. These workshops drew artists from all over the world to Saskatchewan and yielded connections with influential artists, curators and critics. But as this rich network expanded, Perehudoff also preserved his roots. Born in 1918 to a Doukhobor family near Saskatoon, he continued to farm throughout his artistic career. Perehudoff humorously explained the reason for his life-long dedication to farming was that he had to do something while waiting for the paint to dry. 

Perehudoff's artistic vision embraces a specific response to place – the Prairies – and a belief in the evocative power of abstract forms. There is an obvious influence of the purity and simplicity of the flat plains and expansive skies that are so much a part of his Saskatchewan life.

This exhibition was curated by internationally recognized curator and critic Karen Wilkin of New York City.

Above: William Perehudoff, Colour Improvisation, 1967, Collection of the Mendel Art Gallery


Learn more about Colour Field painting and the ideas behind it:


"Characterized by bold and expansive areas of colour, superimposed on a stained, watercolour-like background, Perehudoff’s paintings are eye candy. Simple geometry is prevalent in his works, but his compositions are anything but."

Marcella Ducasses, Fast Forward Weekly (July 7, 2011)


Beyond our Walls

The PEREHUDOFF The Optimism of Colour: William Perehudoff, a retrospective exhibition comes from the Mendel Art Gallery, click here to see their site and learn more about William Perehudoff.
Mendel Art Gallery

Organized and circulated by the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Canada. This project has been made possible through a contribution from the Museums Assistance Program, Department of Canadian Heritage.
Mendel Art Gallery
Canadian Heritage

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Calgary, AB T2G 0P3

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Friday: 9am - 8pm
Saturday: 9am - 5pm
Sunday: 12pm - 5pm


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