Memorable Manitobans: Roman Ivan Kowal (1922-2004)
Born at Bashnia, Western Ukraine in 1922, he began his art education in 1942 at the Art Institute in Lviv. After the Second World War he continued his studies at Munich and Berchtesgaden. He completed his studies in 1948 and immigrated to Canada. Upon arrival he worked in the display department of the Hudson’s Bay Company. From 1952 to 1954 he worked for the sculptor Hubert Garnier, designing a large bas-relief pioneer for the Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History at Regina, as well as monuments to Kelsey and the buffalo hunt, neither of which were brought to fruition.
In 1954, he began freelance work, first in ceramics then gradually focussing on church art painting and sculpturing. In 1960 he moved to New York City to collaborate on a monument of Taras Shewchenko and completed bas-reliefs for it. He returned to Winnipeg the following year and started working with artist Sviatoslaw Hordynsky to decorate churches around Winnipeg, starting with the Sts. Vladimir and Olga Cathedral. In 1966 he designed his first stained glass window for St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Winnipeg.
His paintings, sculpture, mosaics, murals, stained glass windows, church interiors, and icons are distinguished by an individualistic approach and personal identity. Among the Manitoba churches featuring his work are the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church (Winnipeg), St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church (Transcona), Sts. Vladimir and Olga Cathedral (Winnipeg), Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church (Winnipeg), Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Resurrection (Dauphin), Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Assumption (Portage la Prairie), Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Russell), Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Gimli), and Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church (Beausejour). Some of his works include the famine monument in front of Winnipeg City Hall, the Red River Cart in Assiniboine Park, and the Taras Shevchenko Monument on the Legislative grounds.
He died at Winnipeg on 30 December 2004.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 5 January 2005.
We thank Frances Kasper and George Penner for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 9 December 2019