William Kurelek: The Messenger

Throughout a 20-year career that spanned from roughly the 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. But there is another Kurelek—the tortured man who spent two years in mental hopsitals,  the anguished prophet of a modern apocalypse, whose art is 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 crucial and 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 will be mounted in Hamilton and Victoria following its inaugural opening in Winnipeg, includes over 80 key 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.

Following its closure on December 31, William Kurelek: The Messenger will tour to the Art Gallery of Hamilton from January 29 to April 29, 2012, and to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria from May 25 to September 3, 2012.

The exhibition is the result of a partnership between the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Hamilton, and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Generously supported by Canadian Heritage/Patrimoine canadien; Pattison Outdoor Advertising; Mayberry Fine Art; the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko; Heritage Grants Program, Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism; and the Wasyl Topolnicky Memorial Foundation Inc.

Click here to visit our special interactive Kurelek website with more information on the artist and his work, close-up views of the paintings, discussion pages, and lots more - www.kurelek.ca.


Review by CBC's Mike Green, as well as an interview between Andrew Kear, Curator of Canadian Historical Art, and Terry MacLeod.

Review by Winnipeg Free Press's arts report Alison Mayes here.

Review by Robert Enright in the Globe & Mail.

Review by Leah Sandals in The National Post.

Andrew Kear in conversation with Hot 103's Ace Burpee. 



William Kurelek, This is the Nemesis, 1965.

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Related Programs & Events

Past Programs & Events

  • William Kurelek and Precise: Craft Refined

    A special day just for WAG membes and their friends with curator tours of these exhibitions.

    Thursday, September 29, 2011 from 11am to 5pm

  • Round Table Discussion: Kurelek, his Medium and Messages

    The exhibition William Kurelek: The Messenger is an unprecedented partnership between the WAG, the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, join co-curators Andrew Kear, Mary-Jo Hughes (AGGV) and Tobi Bruce (AGH).

    Saturday, October 1, 2011 from 3:30pm to 5pm

  • A Celebration of the Arts

    From 6pm to 6am--Nuit Blance offers 12 hours of music, dance, art, film, and so much more!

    Saturday, October 1, 2011 to Sunday, October 2, 2011

  • William Kurelek and Precise

    Saturday October 1, 2011 at 7pm

  • William Kurelek - English Language

    Sunday October 9, 2011 at 2pm
    Sunday October 16, 2011 at 2pm
    Sunday October 23, 2011 at 2pm
    Sunday November 6, 2011 at 2pm
    Sunday November 13, 2011 at 2pm
    Saturday November 19, 2011 at 2pm
    Sunday November 20, 2011 at 2pm
    Sunday November 27, 2011 at 2pm
    Sunday December 4, 2011 at 3pm
    Saturday December 10, 2011 at 2pm
    Sunday December 11, 2011 at 2pm

  • William Kurelek's The Maze

    The Canadian premiere of an iconic documentary on the life and art of Manitoba artist William Kurelek.

    Thursday October 13, 2011 at 7pm
    Saturday November 26, 2011 at 2pm

  • Talk - William Kurelek's Christian Perspective

    Join Michael Boss, Head of WAG Studio Programs by day and Ukrainian history buff by night, for a talk on Kurelek's Christian perspective within the broader context of his Ukrainian heritage and artistic production.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011 from 12:10pm to 1pm

  • William Kurelek: A Party on the Prairie

    Celebrate our Ukrainian heritage.

    Sunday, October 23, 2011 from 1pm to 4:30pm

  • William Kurelek - Ukrainian Language

    Ukrainian language tours of the exhibition

    Sunday October 30, 2011 at 2pm
    Sunday December 4, 2011 at 2pm

  • Curator's Tour - William Kurelek: The Messenger

    Join Andrew Kear, Curator of Historical Canadian Art and William Kurelek co-curator for an in-depth examination of the art and life of this iconic Canadian artist

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 from 12:10pm to 1pm

  • Out of Mind - Into Creativity: Mental Health and the Arts Symposium

    Thursday November 24, 2011
    Friday November 25, 2011

  • Curatorial Tour

    Curator Andrew Kear explores the art of this Manitoba artist.

    Thursday, December 1, 2011 from 7pm to 8pm

  • Picturing Your Story

    Saturday, December 10, 2011 from 10am to 4pm
    Sunday, December 11, 2011 from 10am to 4pm

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