William Kurelek (1927 – 1977)
Canadian painter and writer William Kurelek was born in rural Alberta as the eldest of seven children to Ukrainian immigrants. His family barely made a living with grain farming during the depression era. Although Kurelek enrolled at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto and at the Instituto Allende in Mexico, he was primarily self-taught. His art was strongly influenced by his upbringing on the Canadian prairies, his Ukrainian heritage, and his life-long struggle with mental illness. Inspired by Dutch old masters Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel, as well as Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco, William Kurelek’s paintings are narrative, realistic in style and often symbolic. During the early 1950s, he began suffering from depression and sought treatment at a psychiatric clinic in London, UK. After his release from hospital, he converted to Roman Catholicism and started working at F.A. Pollak Limited, a reputable art framer and restorer in London. In 1959 he moved back to Canada, settling in Toronto, where he was represented by Isaacs Gallery. William Kurelek died from cancer in 1977. He is one of the most respected and commercially successful Canadian artists of the 20th century and his works are collected by leading cultural institutions like the National Gallery of Canada, The Art Gallery of Ontario, and MOMA, New York.