WILLIAM KURELEK, R.C.A.
The Isaacs Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
William Kurelek, Lumberjack, Tundra Books, Montreal, 1974, unpaginated.
Determined to study art in Europe, William Kurelek found himself in lumber camps of northern Ontario and Quebec – earning and saving funds to pay his way as quickly as possible. Deemed unfit by the foreman upon his first sight of the artist, Kurelek later quipped that it was in the wilds of the forest that he earned his reputation as “a worker.”
Much like Kurelek himself, the lumberjack depicted in this lot finds himself isolated in a dark and dense surround. He pauses for a moment – resting from his hardship to be soothed by the cool, refreshing waters of a forest stream. Through the heightened white bark and the phosphorescent greens of the lichen and the moss, Kurelek creates a magical atmosphere. The presence of the warbling bird in the top right hand corner of the scene suggests that, to Kurelek, divine intervention may have led the labourer to refreshment.
As technology ushered in more efficient and faster methods for harvesting, the number of lumberjacks dramatically diminished. Kurelek writes, “Was our old way, for all its hardships, more romantic, more humane, more socially satisfying? I leave the answers to others. I only know I am glad to have been a part of that good life before it passed into history.”