Artwork by William Kurelek,  Stop Thief!

William Kurelek
Stop Thief!

mixed media on board
signed with monogram and dated 1974 lower right; titled on the reverse
7.25 x 8.75 ins ( 18.4 x 22.2 cms )

Sold for $34,500.00
Sale date: May 31st 2016

Provenance:
Issacs Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, U.S.A.
Literature:
William Kurelek, “Someone with Me: The Autobiography of William Kurelek”, Cornell University, Ithaca,1973, pages 68-70
Swimming was identified by William Kurelek as the only water sport experienced by prairie boys. The artist recalled that he and his brother John did not see “a large body of water until we were in our middle teens! That was when father bought our first car.” Prior to that, the joy of swimming was found at Poplar Spring, described by the painter as “a miniature mecca,” a long hike or short bike ride from the Kurelek family farm. William reminisced of the creation and detailed tactile experience of this escape from the responsibilities of life on the farm, recalling that “older boys dug out and widened a portion of the bog ditch and built a sod dam and a rough diving platform. The bottom was clammy in the spring as mud or clay squished up between your toes. After the sun had dried you off you'd have a fine white coating of clay on you that you could brush off.”

Kurelek's “Stop Thief!” presents a further element of chaos to a scene already rich with the potential of energy and activity. The exuberant merriment of the children in the background is interrupted as a dog glides across the bank and grabs the resting shoe of one of the swimmers. The child is left only to shout and reach helplessly to the sky as the four-legged crook begins to exit from the perspective of the viewer (and the boy). Such an occurrence would likely have been met with equal parts entertainment and stress for Kurelek, knowing his long trip back to the farm would have been one of discomfort wearing one shoe, not to mention the potential reaction of his parents at the sudden need for a replacement.

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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.