William Perehudoff, OC, RCA
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1918 - 2013
William Perehudoff was a lifelong resident of Saskatchewan. He was an important contributor to Colour Field painting in Canada, and during his career, spanning five decades, he was best known for his vibrant abstract canvases.
Perehudoff was born to Russia emigrants in 1919, and was raised on a farm near Saskatoon. His formal art training took place abroad; during 1948 to 1949 he studied with French muralist Jean Charlot at Colorado Springs Fine Art Centre, and later in New York with Amedee Ozenfant. In the early stages of his artistic career, Perehudoff was commissioned by Fred Mendel, owner of International Packers Ltd. and the founder of the Mendel Art Gallery, to create figurative murals for the plant’s cafeteria and reception room. In 1952, while traveling in Europe, Perehudoff married fellow Saskatchewan landscape artist Dorothy Knowles.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Perehudoff was often a participant in the Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops, attending notable classes led by Will Barnet (1957), Herman Cherry (1959), Clement Greenberg (1962), Kenneth Noland (1963) and Donald Judd (1968). During this time, Perehudoff began to create bold and colourful abstracts - a style he would develop and modify for the remainder of his career. His early abstracts clearly relate to the prairie landscape, with their broad horizontal bands of colour. Under the influence of Greenberg and Noland, Perehudoff began to explore a non-referential mode of abstraction, in which colourful forms relate lyrically to each other and to space. In the mid-1960s, Perehudoff began to experiment with technique, staining the canvas rather than painting onto it. With the canvas positioned flat on the floor, he would use various tools, including sponges and rollers to apply the wet acrylic paint. The staining technique, along with his extensive knowledge of colour theory, allowed him to further expand and explore the depths of colour in his work.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Perehudoff and Knowles lived predominantly on their farm, where they continued to paint. Perehudoff was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 1994 and was named a member of the Order of Canada in 1999. In 2011, a retrospective of his work, The Optimism of Colour, was arranged by the Mendel Gallery and toured Canadian cities.