With an acclaimed career that spanned over seven decades, William Perehudoff is one of the most celebrated Canadian Colour Field painters of his generation.
Beginning his career in the early 1940s, Perehudoff carried on a dialogue with American Colour Field and European abstract movements. By 1949, he was studying in New York with Amédée Ozenfant, co-founder of the Purist Movement with Le Corbusier in 1918.
Historian, critic and curator Roald Nasgaard introduces William Perehudoff in Abstract Painting in Canada, “Perehudoff’s story is the anomaly of the farmer-painter who, except for a period of formal training during the late 1940s and regular travel abroad, never left Saskatchewan and yet came to enjoy international recognition and success, with dealers and shows in New York and London. Woven into that is the identification of his work with Emma Lake and its incorporation into Greenberg’s prairie story.” 1
In 1962, Perehudoff met Clement Greenberg, an influential New York art critic, highly regarded and best known for his promotion of the Abstract Expressionist movement. As a result of his meetings with Greenberg in New York and at the Emma Lake Workshops in Saskatchewan, a shift in Perehudoff’s painting took place and his focus turned to formalist abstraction.
Over the span of his career, Perehudoff achieved distinction through his exhibitions and awards. He had solo exhibitions at Waddington-Tooth in London, UK, Noah Goldowsky Gallery, New York, Meredith Long Contemporary Gallery, New York, Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon and Glenbow Museum, Calgary. He participated in group exhibitions including National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal and Hirschhorn Museum + Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. In 1994, Perehudoff was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, followed by the Order of Canada in 1998. In 2003 he received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Regina and in 2012 he was bestowed the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
In 2010, a traveling retrospective was organized by the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, curated by esteemed New York art critic Karen Wilkin. “The Optimism of Colour: William Perehudoff, a retrospective” opened at Mendel Art Gallery in October 2010. It travelled to Kamloops Art Gallery, BC and Glenbow Museum, Calgary in 2011 and in 2012 it was on view at Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario and Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario. In her forwarding essay of the exhibition catalogue, Wilkin writes, “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.” 2
1 Roald Nasgaard, Abstract Painting in Canada, (Douglas & McIntyre Ltd: 2007), 288.
2 Karen Wilkin, “The Optimism of Colour: William Perehudoff, a retrospective”, (Mendel Art Gallery: 2010), 15.