Kurelek, William

Kurelek, William [Курилик, Василь; Kurylyk, Vasyl'], b 3 March 1927 in Whitford, Alberta, d 3 November 1977 in Toronto. Painter. Son of a Ukrainian immigrant farmer, he was raised in rural Manitoba, attended high school and university in Winnipeg, and then studied art at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto and the Instituto Allende in Mexico. During his stay in England (1952–9), he was hospitalized for chronic depression and found solace in the Roman Catholic faith. After visiting the Holy Land (1959, 1964), he depicted the Passion of Christ in a series of 160 paintings, which he considered to be his most important work. His most popular works, however, were landscapes and paintings of life on the prairies. He created a series of intricate works depicting various ethnic groups of Canada, among them Ukrainians, Poles, Irish, Jews, and Inuit. His personal and artistic development is outlined in his candid autobiography Someone With Me (1973; rev edn, 1980). At least 17 volumes of his plates and illustrations have been published, including the award winning A Prairie Boy’s Winter (1973), Lumberjack (1974), The Passion of Christ (1975), and Fox Mykyta (1978). Kurelek has been the subject of several films and a biography by Patricia Morley (1986). His realistic and symbolic works convey through vivid colors and simple lines an intense, personal vision. Leading art critics called him the Brueghel of the North. His works are on display in 15 museums and galleries in North America, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the Ukrainian Museum of Canada in Saskatoon, and the Niagara Falls Art Gallery and Museum.

Ewanchuk, M. William Kurelek: The Suffering Genius (Steinbach, Man 1996)
Friesen, I. Earth Hell, and Heaven in the Art of William Kurelek (Oakville, Ont 1997)

Sviatoslav Hordynsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]

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