Artwork by William Kurelek,  Le Gobelet, Tavern Restaurant

William Kurelek
Le Gobelet, Tavern Restaurant

mixed media on masonite
signed with monogram lower right; titled on the reverse, titled and dated 1975 to four gallery labels on the reverse
28 x 9 ins ( 71.1 x 22.9 cms )

Auction Estimate: $15,000.00$10,000.00 - $15,000.00

Price Realized $40,800.00
Sale date: June 8th 2023

Marlborough-Godard Gallery, Toronto
Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto
Galerie Lafitte, Montreal
Loch & Mayberry Fine Art, Winnipeg
Private Collection, Ontario
Possibly “William Kurelek: Montreal Revisited Series”, Marlborough‒ Godard Gallery, Montreal, December 1975‒January 1976
Avrom Isaacs fonds, York University, Toronto, 1996-036/020 (1), typed Isaacs Gallery price list and notes for “Montreal Revisited” exhibition, November 1975
Joan Murray, “Kurelek’s Vision of Canada”, Oshawa, 1982, page 76
In late 1975, a selection of twenty-five mixed media paintings by William Kurelek were exhibited at Marlborough‒Godard Gallery as part of his Montreal Revisited series. This group of artworks presented a variety of depictions of Montreal, including classic Old Montreal and McGill University scenes, as well as less-familiar locations to those not native to the city, such as Laval, Town of Mount Royal, and Pointe- aux-Trembles.

In this work, Kurelek has depicted Le Gobelet, a tavern that was located on St. Laurent Boulevard in Montreal. The artist has perfectly captured the warmth, eccentricity and comfort of this charming restaurant. The choice to paint this vivid composition on a uniquely shaped board measuring 28 x 9 inches adds to the intimacy of this snapshot of Montreal life.

Kurelek writes in his statement on the series: “I have lived a total of about a year in Montreal starting back in 1952. I feel I know it enough to make at least comments on it under some such title as Montreal Revisited. I like Montreal and, after Toronto, it would be my second choise [sic] of place to live. It’s the atmosphere of it. There’s more character packed into one block of Montreal than in 10 blocks of Toronto, if my fellow Torontonians will pardon me saying it. It’s ostensibly a study on the character and beauty of a Canadian city...” Kurelek’s friend May Cutler, a Montreal native, was instrumental in exposing the artist to the many facets of the city which he depicted in this series of artworks. Cutler offered to take Kurelek on an “unorthodox” tour of the city, sharing the city in which she was born and bred with the artist.

Regarding his method of documenting scenes of Montreal for the series, Kurelek writes: “I took several hundred photographs, consulted several books about the city and projected slides on my studio wall while painting. I did some sketching too of underlying compositions right on location and later completed the paintings at my little farm above Bancroft, Ontario.”

Remarking on this painting, Kurelek wrote: “French cooking to my appreciation anyhow, shares first place in the world with Chinese. So I had to include a restaurant scene in this series. The best of the “old atmosphere” restaurants in Montreal are to be found in the warehouse and back office area of the Old City, for example “The Catalogne” or the “Filles de Roi”. But Geoff and Joan Graham whose house is also in this series introduced us to such an atmosphere dining and wining place that is reasonably priced, The Gobelet. All it lacks really for my level of appreciation is that the atmosphere of the surrounding area does not conform. The reason is that Le Gobelet is a huge French Canadian born lifted lock stock and barrel from the site of the new Mirabel airport when forms there were being levelled. It was replanted in a spot at the top of St. Laurent street near Jarry Park where the Expos play baseball. Le Gobelet is basically a large tavern where all kinds of colourful, usually young French people can get together and converse over huge mugs of beer. And there is plenty to talk about if you are interested in heritage, for the walls are crowded with stuffed birds and old utensils and tools. I chose the Gobelet over other restaurants simply because I was by my lonesome on that particular research trip and didn’t have someone to share a more expensive meal with. Also the long vertical panel I settled on accommodated the Gobelet’s high ceiling better than the sub-basement settings of most of the Old City gourmet restaurants.”

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William Kurelek
(1927 - 1977) RCA

Born on a farm near Willingdon, Alberta in 1927, William Kurelek created paintings that explored the reality of farm life during the Depression, with a focus on Ukrainian experiences in Canada. Kurelek’s mother’s family settled in Canada during one of the first waves of Ukrainian immigration in 1899 before the painter’s father arrived in Alberta from Western Ukraine during the second major wave to the province in 1923. In 1934, Kurelek’s family moved to Manitoba, near Winnipeg, due to falling grain prices and a fire that destroyed their home. Upon moving to Manitoba, Kurelek began attending school at the Victoria Public School.

Influenced by the apprehension surrounding the Depression, World War I, and the instability of farming, Kurelek focused on his studies. However, his father did not approve. While Kurelek’s father valued physical labor on the farm, Kurelek concentrated on school and drawing, which caused tension in his household. As a child, Kurelek covered his room in drawings from literature, dreams, and hallucinations. At school, Kurelek’s classmates were enthralled by his stories and drawings.

In 1943, Kurelek and his brother attended Isaac Newton High School in Winnipeg. While in Winnipeg, he frequented Ukrainian cultural classes offered by St. Mary the Protectress. In 1946, Kurelek enrolled in the University of Manitoba studying Latin, English, and history. While in university, Kurelek’s mental health spiraled, which he later self-identified as depersonalization.

After university, in 1948, Kurelek’s family relocated to a farm near Hamilton, Ontario. The next fall, in 1949, Kurelek began studying at the Ontario College of Art working towards a career in commercial advertising. While in school he was uninterested in the competitiveness and emphasis on earning high grades. So, he decided to study with David Alfaro Siqueiros in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. During his hitchhike to Mexico, Kurelek experienced his first mystical experience while sleeping in the Arizona desert. In this vision, a robed figure asked him to look after his sheep. Upon his arrival to Mexico, Kurelek learned that Siqueiros had departed, and the program was under new direction by Sterling Dickinson. Dickinson’s program was more informal and allowed Kurelek to become aware of social issues and develop his belief system.

Kurelek returned to Canada in 1951 and traveled to England in 1952 where he was admitted into a psychiatric treatment center at London’s Maudsley Hospital. The doctors noted the severity of his illness as well as his artistic talent. After his discharge, Kurelek traveled throughout Europe to view works by Northern Renaissance painters, such as Jan van Eyck and Hieronymus Bosh. In 1953, Kurelek was readmitted into Maudsley, then transferred to Netherne Hospital in Surrey, which had a cutting-edge therapy program. He continued to paint during this time. In early 1955, Kurelek was discharged and returned to London where he worked at an art framing studio, apprenticing with Frederick Pollock.

“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.”

Kurelek permanently returned to Canada in 1959. Later that year he met Avrom Isaacs, of Isaacs Gallery, who invited him to work in his gallery’s frame shop and hosted his first solo exhibition in 1960. In 1962, Kurelek married Jean Andrews and they relocated to the Beaches area in Toronto. Following the Cuban Missile Crisis, he began painting in a “fire and brimstone” style and constructed a fallout shelter in his basement, which eventually became his studio. He visited Ukraine in 1970 and 1977 and during this period he took a multicultural approach to his art. After his second trip to Ukraine he was admitted to St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and soon passed away from cancer.

Literature Sources:
Andrew Kear, “William Kurelek: Life and Work”, Art Canada Institute, Toronto, 2017 (