Passover – William Kurelek

On this Passover evening, the McMichael Canadian Collection has posted this moving painting by renowned Canadian artist William Kurelek, called Doctor’s Family Celebrating Passover, 1975.

McMichael recently brought the painting into its collection. The image comes from a suite of 16 paintings titled Jewish Life in Canada that Kurelek painted in the 1970s to honour his friendship with Toronto art dealer Avrom Isaacs. For those who know Kurelek’s background, this is a poignant story. Isaacs saved the artist by offering Kurelek a framing job at his gallery before eventually discovering his employee’s remarkable creative gifts.

William Kurelek (1927–1977), Jewish Immigrants Arriving on the Prairies, 1975 McMichael Collection

A devout Roman Catholic, Kurelek intended Jewish Life in Canada as a gesture across the cultural divide, implicitly demonstrating his open-mindedness toward Canadians of cultural and religious backgrounds different from his own.

The McMichael is exhibiting Kurelek’s Jewish Life in Canada through July 2023, details here.

A sweeping online exhibition on Kurelek’s life and work, here.

Full image credit, top of post: Doctor’s Family Celebrating Passover in Halifax, 1975, mixed media on board, 44.5 × 61 cm, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Photo: Michael Cullen, Dunnville, Ontario, © Estate of William Kurelek, courtesy of the Wynick / Tuck Gallery, Toronto

13 replies »

    • It’s a pleasure to intro this phenomenal artist’s work. He was primarily a dark, tortured soul who managed to break through to the light in many of his most revered works. But his darkness also produced some of the most powerful paintings, too. (All explained if you ever have time on the online retrospective

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  1. I’d never seen these Kurelek works, but I used to linger in the Kurelek area in the AGO and be amazed every time at his ability to show us the bone-deep cold of Prairie winters… thanks for this

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