Historic Art | William Kurelek R.C.A.

Snowdrift fun om 8

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Snowdrift Fun, 1973

Technique: oil on masonite

Dimensions: 8.125x8 in.


signed lower right
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montreal
Private collection

Snowdrift Fun is a piece from a collection of illustrations based on Kurelek’s memories of growing up in rural Alberta and Manitoba. On Snowdrift Fun, Kurelek wrote that “the drifts were so high the children could make two-story apartments by honeycombing the snow with tunnels and caves”. In 1973, he released an autobiographical children’s book called A Prairie Boy’s Winter in which a 1971 version of Snowdrift Fun appears as an illustration. While much of his work clearly reflected on his psychological and religious struggles, the paintings Kurelek produced of Canadian landscapes and people are a proud representation of life in his country. The works he made for his children’s books are especially nostalgic, Snowdrift Fun a gentle insight into his memories of winter life in Canada.

About the Artist

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.

The Canadian Encyclopedia, Author: Patricia Morley
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