Breaking Free: The Story of William Kurelek

By Carol-Ann Hoyte

A review of Breaking Free: The Story Of William Kurelek by May Ebbitt Cutler

Published on April 1, 2003

Breaking Free: The Story Of William Kurelek
May Ebbitt Cutler

Tundra Books
$21.99
cloth
32pp
0-88776-617-X

An unhappy childhood, a difficult relationship with his father, and depression – these things formed the backdrop of William Kurelek’s life.

Cutler combines her text, Kurelek’s words, and his works to present the life of her friend who triumphed to become an internationally acclaimed artist. Themes Kurelek addressed in his art include his youth, prairie life, religion, and the immigrant experience.

A turning point in Kurelek’s life was his stay in a London hospital which treated patients by encouraging them to draw or paint their fears. Inspired by a therapist there who had battled depression with the help of religion, Kurelek did the same. In 1977, at the age of 50, the artist died in Toronto, leaving murals, drawings, and more than ten thousand paintings.

The book’s balanced layout is accessible and visually appealing. A short timeline of the artist’s life and the sources of the drawings and paintings which appear in the book are provided. Breaking Free is a great way to introduce children aged nine and up to the life and works of this great Canadian artist.

Cutler has published nine books written and/or illustrated by Kurelek. The author and artist’s joint projects include the award-winning children’s titles A Prairie Boy’s Winter and A Prairie Boy’s Summer, both classic Canadian art books. mRb

Carol-Ann Hoyte is the Quebec English-language regional coordinator for TD Canadian Children's Book Week and organizer of monthly mixers for Montreal anglophone children's book authors and illustrators.

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