Artist William Kurelek was born in Whitford, Alberta, in 1927 to Ukrainian-Canadian pioneers. He, his brother and sister, and his parents lived on a farm on the Prairies. In 1934, he moved to Stonewall, Manitoba, and then in 1949, his family moved to Stoney Creek, Ontario.
When Kurelek chose to pursue a career in painting, he had to leave his family and rebel against his parents' wishes; his choice to live as an artist was an unconventional one in his community. Kurelek's community and his cultural and ethnic past, however, were never far from his art. His paintings' content often dealt with families, religion, history, and tradition. Images and symbolism that were a part of the Ukrainian pioneer experience on the Prairie and rural farming experience in Ontario often can be found in his work. He had an interest in recording the traditions, the past, and the landscapes he came from.