Abstract Critical

William Perehudoff at Newzones

William Perehudoff 1918-2013, installation view, Newzones, Calgary, Canada

William Perehudoff 1918-2013, installation view, Newzones

 “My paintings carry no other message but the surprise, spontaneity and optimism of colour.” (1)
-William Perehudoff, 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.

William Perehudoff 1918-2013, installation view, Newzones

William Perehudoff 1918-2013, installation view, Newzones

 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.

William Perehudoff 1918-2013, installation view, Newzones

William Perehudoff 1918-2013, installation view, Newzones

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 1918-2013, installation view, Newzones

William Perehudoff 1918-2013, installation view, Newzones

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)

Newzones is honoured to present five decades of paintings to mark and celebrate William’s life and exemplary career.

The above text and images are courtesy of Newzones, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The exhibition runs until the 9th of May.


(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





  1. Patrick Jones said…

    A lovely artist,plying his trade with subtely and with delight.Some of his small images from the Poussin show stay in my mind.Its the quiet quality which excites,no bluster,uncertainty even ,but real excitement in discovery.Makes a lot of work featured on the Ab Crit site look contrived,overly clever,and merely graphic in illustration of its ideas.Im very pleased for his family that this show is on now.