William Kurelek

  William Kurelek (Wasyl), painter and writer, evangelist (b near Whitford, Alta 3 Mar 1927; d at Toronto 3 Nov 1977). Influenced by Bosch and Brueghel and by prairie roots, his UKRAINIAN heritage and Roman Catholicism, Kurelek's realistic and symbolic paintings record his historic culture and religious vision. The oldest of 7 children, he was expected to help run the farm. His lack of mechanical aptitude attracted harsh criticism from his father, as did his wish to be an artist. He studied at Winnipeg, Toronto and San Miguel, Mexico. In England (1952-59), he sought psychiatric help and was hospitalized for severe emotional problems, depression and eye pain. He converted to Roman Catholicism (1957), credited God with his healing, and began to paint the Passion of Christ according to St Matthew. This series of 160 paintings is housed in the Niagara Falls Art Gallery and Museum.

Returning to Toronto, he was established by the early 1960s as an important painter, alternating realistic works depicting his prairie roots with didactic series. In the 1970s he began to publish his paintings with simple texts. His books for children (A Prairie Boy's Winter, 1973; Lumberjack, 1974; A Prairie Boy's Summer, 1975; and A Northern Nativity, 1976) have become modern classics. His autobiography, Someone With Me (1973, rev ed 1980), ends with his marriage to Jean Andrews (1962). Kurelek was an outstanding artist with a unique idealistic and pragmatic vision. A modern Jeremiah, he painted a coming apocalypse - divine justice on a materialistic, secular society.