Zaporozhian Cossacks, 1952
oil on masonite
102 x 152 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Gift of Robert G. Kearns
© Estate of William Kurelek, courtesy of the Wynick/Tuck Gallery, Toronto
This is one of the earliest known paintings by the Manitoba-born William Kurelek, executed upon the artist’s return to Canada from Mexico. The composed dynamism of the figures’ arrangement reflects his awareness of the mural tradition of David Siqueiros and Diego Rivera. The work also precedes his travels to Europe, his self-admittance for psychiatric care in London, and his conversion to Roman Catholicism. Kurelek uses Nicolai Gogol’s novel Taras Bulba and its tale of the eponymous father’s two sons, who were Zaporozhian Cossacks, as a tribute to his Ukrainian immigrant father and his own struggle to win his father’s approval to become an artist.