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Memorable Manitobans: William Kurelek (1927-1977)


Born at Whitford, Alberta near Edmonton, he moved with his parents to Stonewall at an early age and grew up there, attending Victoria School. He received an Arts degree from the University of Manitoba in 1949. He attended the Ontario College of Art for a few months then hitch-hiked to Mexico in search of an art teacher. Not finding one, he returned to Canada and worked as a lumberjack before moving to England where he began serious painting after admitting himself to a London mental institution. Having converted to Catholicism, he returned to Toronto, Ontario in 1959. His paintings illustrated many books, in some cases his own texts. He often painted scenes of his Manitoba childhood, such as those in A Prairie Boy’s Winter (1973). In recognition of his contributions to Canadian art, he was inducted into the Order of Canada (1976). He died of cancer at Toronto on 3 November 1977. His autobiography, Someone With Me, appeared posthumously in 1980.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: William Kurelek Monument (RM of Rockwood)

Kurelek: A Biography by Patricia Morley (1986).

William Kurelek, the Suffering Genius by Michael Ewanchuk (1995).

William Kurelek: Painter & Prophet by Michael D. O’Brien, Ottawa: Justin Press (2013).


“Funeral service Monday for prairie artist Kurelek,” Winnipeg Free Press, 5 November 1977, page 7.

“Kurelek’s art illuminated like meteoric phenomenon,” Winnipeg Free Press, 18 November 1977, page 104.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

We thank Derryl Hall for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 9 August 2016

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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