William (W.K.) Kurelek - Copper Eskimo Cod Fishing

  • Copper Eskimo Cod Fishing
  • Mixed Media
  • 12 x 9.88 in
  • 1975
  • Sold
  • Loch Gallery, Toronto

William Kurelek, The Last of the Arctic, 1976, page 82, reproduced page 83

In the latter part of his career, William Kurelek undertook to chronicle the different ethnic groups within Canada in several series of works. One of these focused on the Inuit, referred to as Eskimos at the time. In this fascinating scene, we see a single fisherman standing alone at a hole cut through the ice. Kurelek wrote, "After the cod has its flesh eaten, its soul will return to the lake, and enter the body of another fish, prepared to be caught again. The fisherman also believes that if he lays the fish in a circle around him, heads toward the hole, then he will always be in the midst of a school of fish." The image is serene, the feeling it evokes almost spiritual, and the composition and treatment of the figure recall the religious themes often found in Kurelek’s work. The overall white and grey palette is accented beautifully by the colour of the fisherman's parka and conveys a feeling of reverence, uplifting the fisherman from his state of cold loneliness to a state of dignified serenity.

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

  • Untitled (A Birdhouse for Dido)

  • Mixed Media on Board
  • 40 x 28 in
  • 1977
  • Price available on request
  • Playing Ball

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  • 4.5 x 12 in
  • Price available on request
  • Still Life with Treasury Notes

  • Mixed Media
  • 6.5 x 10.5 in
  • circa 1955
  • Price available on request

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