Born in Whitford, Alberta, in 1927. Died in Toronto in 1977.
William Kurelek, the painter, illustrator and author, grew up in Stonewall, Manitoba, and studied at the Ontario College of Art and at Instituto Allende in Mexico. As a young man, he was admitted to the Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital in London, England, where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia; the condition was eventually successfully treated there and at Netherne Hospital. A religious man, Kurelek was originally Ukrainian Orthodox but converted during his treatment to Roman Catholicism. Over his career, he painted a series of 160 works on the Passion of Christ. In another series of works depicting the Nativity, Kurelek placed the biblical story in Canadian settings. His paintings, often naïve in style but philosophical in outlook, are marked by meticulous craftsmanship. Several of his children’s books, including A Prairie Boy’s Winter, are modern classics that broadened his reputation within popular Canadian culture. In 1976, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. He died in Toronto in 1977. His archives, and a substantial body of his work, including the Passion mentioned above, are held at Niagara Falls Art Gallery, while his works are in the collections of major museums across Canada.