William (W.K.) Kurelek - A Bumper Harvest

  • A Bumper Harvest
  • Mixed Media
  • 48 x 36 in
  • 1974
  • Sold
  • Loch Gallery, Winnipeg

Dated 74 and initialled (lower right)
Private Collection, Calgary - Isaacs Gallery, Toronto
Illustrated in "Kurelek's Country", p. 102

"A Bumper Harvest"
(on verso of painting)

"Fishing and Mining are my two big gaps in Canadian work experience. The subject of this picture however is my element for although my father used to say I was hopeless at farming I did, while working for him, catch the joy of a good year for him. We farmed a section of land, not several, as this fellow obviously has. Mind you, my father wouldn't openly express happiness over a bumper harvest. Farmers are notorious grumblers and pessimists - a kind of defence mechanism I suppose. So I had to read between the lines so to speak, and detect low-key enthusiasm and satisfaction in his mannerisms and behaviour. A big success in farming is more like chancing on a good run of fish, I suppose, rather than the exultation of a strike in a mineral or oil. In farming you have your territorial limit and put in preparatory work and usually get at least something. The weather is usually the biggest gamble factor - then the price and the availability of market."






Illustrated in: "Kurelek's Canada", p. 102 (illustration), p.103 (text below)

"When I helped my father harvest wheat on our dairy farm in Manitoba, we did not have new- fangled combines. They were on the market but people were still recovering from the Depression. There was little money for modern equipment. Besides, we only harvested one section (one square mile or 640 acres) while the Saskatchewan farmer in the painting obviously has several sections. We used a binder which cuts the grain, binds it into sheaves, carries them, and then drops them into piles in rows suitable for stooking. Stooking, a lovely word, is a way of piling the sheaves so that the grain will dry for threshing. If it is not dry, the kernels may mould or sprout and much will be lost. In the painting I have shown a patch of burnt stubble, but the burning is done well after the harvest. It nourishes the soil in preparation for another season and hopes of another bumper harvest."

Under the pen of William Kurelek, prairie farm scenes and landscapes came to life. By the time of his death in 1977, Kurelek had produced over 2,000 paintings. Kurelek was the son of Ukrainian immigrant farmers. He grew up during the Great Depression on a grain farm in Alberta, and then a dairy farm in Manitoba. While helping out on the farm, he enjoyed watching the sky, studying thunderstorms rolling in across the prairies or the changing patterns of the clouds. His hard-working father thought that his son was lazy, and was not pleased when he decided to pursue his studies in art. His father's rejection was to haunt him all of his life. Kurelek briefly studied art at school, but preferred to teach himself through books. While traveling in England, he was hospitalized for over a year and enrolled in the hospital's art therapy program. It was there that he drew many self-portraits and scenes of farm life from his youth. He also developed his unique style of outlining the drawing with a ballpoint pen, using coloured pencils for texture and adding details in pen. If you examine his drawings, you will notice that they are full of realism with minute details of things like cots, clothes and even insects. Many of Kurelek's painting were produced to accompany books for children. For these he won several awards, including the New York Times's Best Illustrated Children's Book Award for A Prairie Boy's Winter and Lumberjack, and the Canadian Association of Children's Librarians Illustrators Award for A Prairie Boy's Summer.

More Artwork from this Artist

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