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William Kurelek

The Messenger

May 25, 2012 - May 25, 2012

Throughout a career that spanned from mid-1950s until his death, William Kurelek (1927-1977) and his art have meant many different things to many people. The Alberta-born, Manitoba-raised artist was a painter of innocence and fun, his scenes reminiscences of a simpler and timeless past.He was also a chronicler of the experiences of various cultural groups in Canada, devoting entire series to Ukrainian, Jewish, Polish, Irish, French Canadian, and Inuit peoples. Then there is Kurelek the anguished prophet of a modern apocalypse, his art an indictment of the secular age and a testament to unwavering faith.

An important and unique aspect of this exhibition for Canadian audiences will be the inclusion of several works from Kurelek’s highly formative period in England from 1952 to 1959. During this time the young artist underwent psychiatric treatment and converted to Roman Catholicism, which profoundly altered his subsequent approach to life and art making. It is in consideration of these early works that the exhibition reveals Kurelek’s complex psyche and the central role it played in everything he produced.

As the first large-scale survey of William Kurelek in thirty years, The Messenger seeks to bring together the most important and engaging works executed by the artist during his career. The exhibition, which opens at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in September 2011 will travel to Hamilton (January 2012) and Victoria (May 2012), includes over 80 paintings and drawings that encompass the artist’s entire practice. The works are drawn from major private, corporate, and public collections in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. A major publication will be available in September 2011.

The exhibition, a partnership between the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Art Gallery of Hamilton and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, is curated by Mary Jo Hughes, Tobi Bruce, and Andrew Kear.


Continue exploring online:

Check out the interactive website that has been developed as a companion to this exhibition.


This project is generously funded by the Canadian Government through the Department of Canadian Heritage Museums Assistance Program.

Sponsored in part by Vaughan Bevan Wealth Management Group and the Associates of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.



Ways to Engage:

Throughout the run of William Kurelek: The Messenger, the Gallery will be providing a range of educational programs reflecting the life and work of this multi-faceted artist. Gallery goers of all ages are encouraged to keep a keen eye on the calendar to take advantage of this last stop on this exhibition’s cross-Canada tour.  Educators hoping to book school tours, can get info and make a booking here.

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