Lot # 039
L'automne 2012 - 1ère session Live auction
ARCA OC OSA 1927 - 1977 Canadian
After Achievement, What?
mixed media on board
initialed and dated 1969 and on verso titled
24 x 30 1/2 pouces 61 x 77.5cm
Galerie Agnès Lefort, Montreal
Private Collection, British Columbia
For the majority of his adult life as an artist, William Kurelek worked in a studio in the basement of his Toronto home. In this small, windowless, meticulously organized space, he worked flat on a table rather than at an easel. When we look at his finely detailed style of painting, with its incised lines, neat divisions of space and repeating yet varied patterns, it is easy to compare him to a thirteenth century illuminator or panel painter. Even his colours, bordered in pencil and luminous, seem to glow as if they are enameled or leafed with gold. Further, when we consider the symbolism, allusion and implied meaning in his subjects, the comparison becomes stronger and we can read his works in the same way. Here in this portrait of a wealthy yet contemplative farmer - the original owner stated that he was told by Kurelek that this was the artist's father - everything in the scene is filled with meaning. The new combine loads a truck with grain - it has been a successful harvest. A freshly paved road busy with vehicles borders the field. Everything about the scene indicates prosperity and success; there is even a runway with a small plane in front of the shining granaries and neat homes in the distance. We see wealth and satisfaction - until we look at the graveyard scene, a modern day memento mori, where a resting gravedigger sits atop a freshly filled grave amidst headstones, while another is at work digging.
A piece of paper attached to the back of the work reads (the artist’s spelling and grammatical idiosyncrasies have been retained), “Now at last we have the old farmer near Winnipeg satisfied at having made it materially: his farming operations are going efficiently and profitable. He even flies his own plane. He’s put on weight too because his labour saving machines do most of the heavy work for him. While in town with his truck he hears one of his neighbors died and now as finishes combining the field adjacent to the local cemetary he sees the grave digger at work for the funeral tomorrow. He stands by the fence pretending to survey another crop but in reality meditating ‘When will my turn come?’ My neighbor had even more property but he couldn’t take a bit of it with him. What was the use of all his years of labour and striving to him now? Am I going into a hole in the ground too and that’s the end? Or will I have to meet God and give an accounting for my life?”
Kurelek’s relationship with his Orthodox father was very strained - he saw him as a hard man without affection, concerned only with work. Being a farmer, he did not support his son’s ambitions as an artist, and was dismissive of Kurelek’s ongoing mental health issues. Yet this portrait is sympathetic and understanding - he sees his father as a mortal like any other, contemplating the fact that death eventually comes to us all. The final touch, the paper, pen and pencil neatly tucked into the farmer’s shirt pocket, can be read in so many ways; as an accounting of one’s life, as a sign of his constant attention to his farm and the myriad details that needed addressing in order to sustain it, or simply as symbols of the habits of a neat, organized, successful man.
This painting is in its original frame, which was made by the artist.
128,700 $ CAN (prime d'achat incluse)
Tous les prix sont en dollars canadiens.
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