The early 1960s were years of sustained artistic activity, success, and controversy for William Kurelek. New themes began to appear in his work that reflected the artist’s conversion to Roman Catholicism. His art became a tool by which he proclaimed a religious message to the world at large.
Returning to Canada from England, Kurelek moved into a small spartan room in a boarding house in Toronto. Here Kurelek threw himself into producing The Passion series: 160 paintings, each depicting a verse from the New Testament book of St. Matthew. In preparation for this magnum opus, in 1959 Kurelek travelled to Jordan and Israel for 6 weeks to photograph and sketch the people and landscape.
This period was also one of great personal and professional vindication for Kurelek. He met the Toronto gallerist, Avrom Isaacs, and mounted the first of his solo exhibitions at The Isaacs Gallery in 1960; he married and started a family in 1962; and he saw one of his works acquired by director Alfred H. Barr for New York’s Museum of Modern Art.