William Kurelek R.C.A.

Home From School, 1976

mixed media on panel
20x28.5 in.

Loch Gallery, Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto;
Private collection, Calgary

William Kurelek was the child of hardworking Ukrainian farmers, and grew up in rural Alberta and Manitoba during the Great Depression. His recollections of his childhood on the prairies are some of his most celebrated works, and they represent a unique vision of Canadian life.

In Home From School, Kurelek captures a blistering cold winter day in the prairies. Bundled up children, perhaps Kurelek and his siblings and friends, trudge their way down a snowy farm road while others in the distance flag them down to catch up. We can see their breath in the freezing air, and the swirling snow blowing against them as they make their way home through the blizzards. For anyone who has experienced childhood in the prairies, the picture might present a familiar and frigid memory. While many of Kurelek’s prairie paintings describe gentle imagery, others, like Home From School, also share regular and sometimes not-so-gentle memories of childhood.

In 1973, three years prior to painting Home From School, Kurelek released a children’s book titled A Prairie Boy’s Winter. In the dedication we can find a simple description of Kurelek’s intentions in painting and sharing these images: “for anyone who ever spent a winter in the praries – and for all the others who wonder what it was like”.

William Kurelek (Wasyl), painter and writer, evangelist (b near Whitford, Alta 3 Mar 1927; d at Toronto 3 Nov 1977). Influenced by Bosch and Brueghel and by prairie roots, his UKRAINIAN heritage and Roman Catholicism, Kurelek’s realistic and symbolic paintings record his historic culture and religious vision. The oldest of…