Representing the estate of William Kurelek
At the time of his death in 1977 he was one of the best known artists in Canada and his reputation has continued to grow. His work can be found in most major public gallery collections across the country and numerous private collections
Born in 1927 and raised on family farms in northern Alberta and Manitoba, William Kurelek was the oldest of seven children in a Ukrainian immigrant family. These prairie roots, the effects of the often strained relationship with his father, who was strongly critical of his son’s determination to become an artist, and the artist’s conversion to Roman Catholicism informed Kurelek’s work throughout his career. The common touch in all of his fine oil paintings and mixed media works has been a source of joy and appreciation for many generations of Canadians.
Kurlelek wrote and illustrated many award-winning books beginning with the modern classic A Prairie Boy’s Winter in 1974, followed two years later by A Prairie Boy’s Summer . In 1976, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.
Avrom Isaacs’ discovery of Kurelek in 1959 led to 18 years of actively exhibiting at The Isaacs Gallery as well as many public galleries across Canada.
The most comprehensive exhibition of Kurelek’s work to date is the recently concluded William Kurelek:The Messenger, organised by and travelled to The Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Hamilton Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
Writing in the preface of the catalogue, the curators state:
“Kurelek was at his best and most challenging when he successfully bridged the pastoral and prophetic, combined memory and message. It is out of this fundamental dichotomy, around which the present exhibition has been conceived, that the artist’s richness emerges. Kurelek himself acknowledged the importance of this dichotomy as the most effective means of communicating this message, while remaining true to himself and his convictions. It is with a view to exploring the various ways in which he strove to reconcile the two poles of his thinking and practice – in essence his being – that shapes this project. —-
Kurelek was an artist who, in his time, both captivated and antagonized critics and the general public alike. There is no reason to believe his work will not do the same today. The urgency of his vision, infused with a fundamental hope, is as relevant, poignant, and universal today as it was 30 years ago. And it is precisely this quality that sets his work apart. Kurelek once wrote, ‘I [have painted] what I feel is important for the people to see.’ It is our hope that were Kurelek here today he would feel this exhibition justly reflects that remarkably unique vision.”
An on-line iteration of the exhibition and catalogue is available at www.kurelek.ca.
The documentary film William Kurelek’s The Maze is a substantial reworking and expansion of the 1969 award winning film The Maze, by Robert Young (with David Grubin). For more information visit www.themazemovie.com. The National Film Board of Canada also made a short entitled Kurelek in 1967.
Exhibitions from 2002-2012: on the archived WTG site.