William Kurelek

William Kurelek, CM (March 3, 1927 — November 3, 1977) was a Canadian artist and writer. His work was influenced by his childhood on the prairies, his Ukrainian-Canadian roots, his struggles with mental illness, and his conversion to Roman Catholicism.
William Kurelek was born near Whitford, Alberta in 1927, the oldest of seven children in a Ukrainian immigrant family: Bill, John, Winn, Nancy, Sandy, Paul, Iris. His family lost their grain farm during the Great Depression and moved to a dairy farm near Stonewall, Manitoba. He developed an early interest in art, which was not encouraged by his hard-working parents. He studied at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto and at the Instituto Allende in Mexico, but was primarily self-taught from books.





 By his mid-twenties he had moved to England. In 1952, suffering from clinical depression and emotional problems, he admitted himself into the Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital in London. There he was treated for schizophrenia. In hospital he painted, producing The Maze, a dark depiction of his tortured youth. His experience in the hospital was documented in the LIFE Science Library book The Mind, published in 1965.He was transferred from the Maudsley Hospital to the Netherne Hospital, where he stayed from November 1953 to January 1955, to work with Edward Adamson (1911–1996), a pioneer of art therapy. At Netherne he produced three masterpieces - Where Am I? Who Am I? Why Am I? (donated to the American Visionary Arts Museum by Adamson at its inauguration in 1995), I Spit On Life, and A Ball of Twine and Other Nonsense. In 1984, when the Adamson Collection was exhibited as Selections from the Edward Adamson Collection, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Adamson donated to the Ontario Psychiatric Association a large pencil drawing by Kurelek of one of the interiors of Netherne Hospital, showing a group of patients at leisure.





 Originally Ukrainian Orthodox, and briefly a professed atheist, Kurelek converted to the Roman Catholic Church in 1957. He painted a series of 160 works on the Passion of Christ, and a series of 20 depicting the Nativity as if Christ had been born in various Canadian settings: an igloo, a trapper's cabin, a boxcar, a motel. He maintained a cottage near Combermere, Ontario, where he got his inspiration for a book of paintings entitled The Polish Canadians, and was a friend of the nearby Madonna House Apostolate.





 In 1959 he moved to Toronto, where he wrote and illustrated a series of children's books, several of which have become modern classics. In 1974 he illustrated a new edition of W. O. Mitchell's Who Has Seen the Wind.He won the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award for A Prairie Boy's Winter in 1974 and A Prairie Boy's Summer in 1976. He was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.[6] In 1976, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. He visited Ukraine in 1970 and again in 1977, posthumously publishing To My Father's Village. He died of cancer in Toronto in 1977. His archives, and a substantial body of his work, including the Passion series mentioned above, are held at Niagara Falls Art Gallery and Archives Canada.Wikipedia




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