Artwork by William Kurelek,  Candy Floss Clouds

William Kurelek
Candy Floss Clouds

oil on board
signed with monogram and dated 1977 lower right; titled on the reverse
20 x 20 ins ( 50.8 x 50.8 cms )

Sold for $34,500.00
Sale date: November 22nd 2016

Private Collection, British Columbia
Andrew Kear writes “Candy Floss Clouds was painted in the last year of Kurelek’s life, a time when he was preoccupied with his last monumental landscape series, ‘Big Lonely’ and the drawings and paintings he made on his final trip to Ukraine. ‘Candy Floss Clouds’ doesn’t appear to be an off-shoot of either of these final projects, nor does it appear anywhere in Isaacs’ records. Theories are that it was done either as a gift for a friend (although the lack of any commemoration on the back of the piece likely discounts this theory) or for an unrealized publication (as the square dimensions might suggest). It perhaps represents one of Kurelek’s veiled criticisms of secular liberal society, a theme we get in works like ‘Harvest of our Mere Humanism Years’ (1974, Corporate Collection, Toronto) and ‘The Dream of Mayor Crombie in the Glen Stewart Ravine’ (1974, City of Toronto).

Andrew Kear is the Curator of Historical Canadian Art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. He was previously Assistant Curator and Registrar with the Tom Thomson Art Gallery and co-curated the 2011/2012 major retrospective of William Kurelek’s work.

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William Kurelek
(1927 - 1977) RCA

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. 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 studied art at the University of Manitoba where he graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in 1949. He worked in lumber camps to raise money for his art studies and did other odd jobs. He then studied six months at the Ontario College of Art but found he needed more freedom to develop at his own pace and interest, preferring to teach himself through books.

He sailed for England in 1952 where he found a happier environment, a more tolerant acceptance for what he wanted to paint. He also apprenticed himself to a picture framer, Frederick Pollock, from whom he learned this exacting craft. Stephen Franklin in ’Weekend Magazine’ described his years in England as follows, “In seven years Kurelek found both happiness and sadness in London. His painstaking fool-the-eye paintings of pound notes and other objects found their way into three Royal Academy summer shows, but he was increasingly bothered by eye trouble for which there was no physical cause. He plumbed the depth of emotional despair, contemplated suicide, and wound up in hospital for more than a year. It was here that he began his conversion – from boyhood membership in the Orthodox Church and subsequent atheism – to Catholicism which has deeply affected his life since.”

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. Careful examination of his drawings reveals images full of realism with minute details of things like cots, clothes and even insects. Under the pen of William Kurelek, prairie farm scenes and landscapes came to life.

He returned to Toronto in 1959, and visited Avrom Isaacs, looking for a job as picture framer. It was his paintings which caught the eye if Isaacs, who became his art dealer. In 1960, Kurelek held his first one man show at the Isaacs Gallery. By the time of his death in 1977, Kurelek had produced over 2000 paintings. Many of Kurelek's painting were produced to accompany books for children. For these he won several awards including the New York Times' 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.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume II”, compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979