Artwork by William Kurelek,  Pornographic Reading (Temptations in the Desert Series)

William Kurelek
Pornographic Reading (Temptations in the Desert Series)

mixed media on board
signed with initials and dated 1975 lower right
20 x 16 ins ( 50.8 x 40.6 cms )

Sold for $18,400.00
Sale date: November 23rd 2017

Private Collection, Winnipeg
Mary Jo Hughes, “The William Kurelek Theatre Presents William Kurelek An Epic Tragedy”, William Kurelek: The Messenger, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Art Gallery of Hamilton and Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2011, page 52
William Kurelek, Someone With Me, Cornell University, Ithaca, 1973, pages 236 and 450-51
Patricia Morley, Kurelek: A Biography, Toronto, 1986, pages 220 and 332
Joan Murray, Kurelek's Vision of Canada, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, 1982, pages 10-22 and 73
An example of the artist's twenty-work “Temptations in the Desert” series, “Pornographic Reading” explores the earthly and biblical vice of lust in a contemporary context. The series was produced for the purpose of exhibition in Olha and Mykola Kolankiwsky's Art Gallery and Museum near Niagara Falls. In this artwork from the series, Kurelek explores both the overarching vice of lust and his own personal conflict and discomfort with lust and sex as a young man.

A self-described late bloomer, Kurelek had an aversion to his own sexuality weighed heavily by feelings of inferiority and guilt. As this series sought to represent temptations of evil and one's mortal duty to reconcile and resist these temptations, this work serves as a caution against such indulgences and vehicle to communicate his Christian values to the public. Highly detailed and vibrant, the artwork evokes a visceral energy prompting contemplation in the viewer to negotiate these temptations in a contemporary representation. Kurelek not only sought to paint a scene of moral downfall, but also the opportunity for salvation driven by discipline and self-awareness.

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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 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. 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. 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.