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Breaking Free

The Story of William Kurelek

by May Ebbitt Cutler
illustrated by William Kurelek

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art, painting
list price: $21.99
published: 2002
publisher: Tundra

Nominated in the nonfiction category for the 2004/2005 Red Cedar Book Awards (British Columbia's Young Reader's Choice book award)

William Kurelek was an internationally acclaimed artist, described by the New York Times as “the North American Brueghel.” Kurelek’s art was brilliant, but his life was difficult in many ways. Born in Alberta and raised on a Manitoba dairy farm, he suffered abuse at the hands of his father. Critics ignored his early paintings, and Kurelek fought a desperate battle with depression. How did such a tormented man create such a stunning legacy that is enjoyed around the world?

May Ebbitt Cutler, who published William Kurelek’s award-winning books and knew him as artist and friend, tells the story of a haunted man, and the art that is his legacy.

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Contributor notes

May Cutler founded Tundra Books in 1967 and ran it until 1995. One of her greatest coups was asking William Kurelek if he would consider creating a children’s book. She would publish 9 books written and/or illustrated by him. May Cutler lives in Montreal and writes plays as well as books.

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Editorial Review

Breaking Free, part art book, part biography, is the story of Kurelek’s life, told with eloquence and compassion by Cutler and illustrated with Kurelek’s well-known and well-loved paintings…”
The Globe And Mail
“May Ebbitt Cutler has created a beautiful tribute to the life and art of William Kurelek… This handsome and elegant biography gives readers insight into the life of a man who struggled to ‘break free’ and achieve his own personal vision of art and life. This powerful story will be of interest to anyone interested in Canadian art and is highly recommended for school and public library collections.”
CM Magazine
“Reading this book is like walking through a gallery of Kurelek’s works with someone who knows some good stories about him and just invites you to notice details, such as Bill painting his childhood self into a picture…[Kurelek’s] life, as retold by Cutler, could well present a template of optimism for those young people who have their own difficulties making a path though the forest.”
–Sarah Ellis in Quill & Quire
“For those familiar with Kurelek, this book will complete the picture. Many others will find it a welcome introduction to a remarkable artist.”
CITY Parent
“This new book about [Kurelek] will be a joy to read to your children or grandchildren…and a treasure for your own library.”
Rural Roots

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Other titles by May Ebbitt Cutler

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