WILLIAM KURELEK, R.C.A.
TROMPE L’OEIL WITH DOLLAR BILL, 1958
watercolour and ink
4.25 ins x 9 ins; 10.8 cms x 22.9 cms
Dealer Av Isaacs met William Kurelek in the late fifties soon after the artist returned to Toronto from England. Kurelek had applied to the gallery for a job as a framer. Recognizing Kurelek’s talent (he had put samples of his own works in the frames he brought to show Isaacs), in 1960 Isaacs held Kurelek’s first exhibition.
Tobi Bruce suggests that the trompe l’oeil works produced in these early years may be viewed as a kind of “visual skills testing, a proving of his artistic abilities” that would “testify to the artist’s capacity to accurately render form and perspective.”
While Kurelek is reputed to have felt such works were simply tricks and somehow beneath him, this position may have been somewhat disingenuous as Patricia Morley notes that “[s]tories of Bill’s obvious pleasure in watching spectators finger his own trompe l’oeil are numerous.”
When Kurelek returned to Canada he was down to the last of his savings. The depiction of the currency in this lot speaks to his penury, made all the more poignant by the worm holes eroding the single dollar.
Patricia Morley, Kurelek: A Biography, Macmillan of Canada, Toronto, 1986, page 110.
William Kurelek, Someone with Me, The Autobiography of William Kurelek, Niagara Falls Art Gallery, 1988, page 489.
Tobi Bruce, et al., William Kurelek: the messenger, Friesens, Altona, MB, 2011, page 137 and cat. nos. 12-14 for three related trompe l’oeil works circa 1959, reproduced in colour.
The Isaacs Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Alberta
Department: Canadian Fine Art
Provenance: The Isaacs Gallery, Toronto