Stepping into a Kurelek Painting

I think that the last time I feasted my eyes upon William Kurelek work was when I entered the St. Thomas More College chapel on campus in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  I was so overwhelmed by the exquisite detail and the content of the work that I could do nothing but stand still and take it all in.  Because of lighting, photography wasn’t an option…but, I will do my best to locate other writers/visitors who might have succeeded.  In the end, I located an image here.

Brigid More writes… William Kurelek was struck with inspiration by the chapel itself. “He walked in and said: ‘I’d like to paint that wall,’ ” says Sanche. The Basilian Fathers had raised funds to commission an artwork from the painter, but had not enough to pay for a mural of those proportions. Kurelek offered instead to paint as a donation, provided that the funds raised be sent to a mission in India. At that time, the Basilian Fathers lived at the college, and Kurelek, through the two weeks that he worked on the mural, stayed as their guest, fasting and attending mass every morning.

1976 Photograph of Mural in St. Thomas More/ Saskatoon

I retrieved a photograph of this Kurelek self-portrait from Archbishop Terry’s blog.  I am particularly fond of this one because of my own interest in ephemera.  Kurelek is surrounded by some of the bits that meant something to him in life. 


This past weekend I decided to drive up to Forestburg to spend time with my dear friend, Bill Webb.  Heading up, I wandered north and east for miles on various Range roads and enjoyed the serendipitous events that took place along those roads.  For example, I stopped the van and watched a rancher’s wife chase a skipping brown calf the entire length of a fence, in order to return it to its mother who was bawling on the other side of the fence.  A three hour drive easily transformed into five hours.  I had a plate of homemade liver and onions in the small hamlet of Trochu and explored an extensive collection in their historical museum.  What a tremendous resource.  Their archives are exquisite!  So, doddle, I DID!  And what fun! Arriving at the W.H.Webb studio, just outside of Forestburg, I then took in the beauty of air and light, friendship and conversation.  There is nothing better than sipping a glass of french wine…or a morning coffee…while gazing out at the horizon.  The only sounds; frogs in the creek…birds…and the seeders driving up and down their long rows for miles.  I felt as though I had stepped into a Kurelek painting.


I am so grateful for the time away from the city…reading, reflecting, sketching and playing with Max.  He definitely loved being on the farm!


The following image was collected from the Salt and Light blog.  The author explores connections between the scripture found in Matthew 14:13-21 and what life must have been like for the missionaries out on the open Canadian prairies.  It is definitely an interesting comparison.


1 thought on “Stepping into a Kurelek Painting

  1. Just read an article on Kurelek’s retrospective exhibition in Canadian Art magazine – Spring 2012. So very impressed with his work. Can we ever give enough kudos to our Canadian artists, writers and musicians? When I emigrated to Canada from England in 1966 the national debate was ‘Who are we – what is our definition as a nation?’. Kurelek is one artist who speaks to who we are…

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