A Tale of a Dog, The Young Doctor, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet

A Tale of a Dog, The Young Doctor, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Toronto-based artist and author Brian Dedora shared with us many enlightening stories about his time working alongside William Kurelek in Av Isaacs’ framing shop. Brian wrote a terrific book titled With WK in the Workshop: A Memoir of William Kurelek which you can learn more about on his website by clicking here.

Zack interviews artist / author Brian Dedora about his time working alongside William Kurelek in Av Isaacs' framing shop

Zack interviews artist / author Brian Dedora about his time working alongside William Kurelek in Av Isaacs’ framing shop

Bill was not only a close friend of Brian’s but a fellow artist whom he greatly admired and learned from. We’d like to share with you a short clip below titled “A Tale of a Dog” which features a lighthearted story told by Brian himself. We hope you enjoy it!

 

“The Young Doctor” – Interview with Dr. Fred Charatan

Dr. Fred Charatan was the doctor who first treated William Kurelek at Maudsley Hospital in London in 1952 and 1953. Dr. Charatan first found William sitting alone on the front steps of the hospital in desperate need of help and soon after admitted him as a patient.

Dr. Fred Charatan is the doctor who admitted Kurelek as a patient at Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital London in 1952

Dr. Fred Charatan is the doctor who admitted Kurelek as a patient at Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital London in 1952

In the film William Kurelek’s The Maze, Dr. Carstairs refers to him as “the young doctor.” Now over 60 years later, I had the special honor of sitting down with Fred – who’s now 93 – and interviewing him about his recollections of treating the then young, troubled artist.

Dr. Fred Charatan pictured here as a young doctor

Dr. Fred Charatan pictured here as a young doctor

As we looked through the recorded dates of Fred’s interviews with Kurelek in his hospital journals from 1952 and 1953, his memories came echoing back. Dr. Charatan had only known of Kurelek as a young artist and hospital patient and it was only decades later that he would find out about William’s success not only as an artist but at finding happiness in his life and starting a family of his own. Whenever we spoke about this transformation, I could see a profound glow of happiness in his eyes, for Fred had seen William in some of his darkest hours.

Dr. Fred Charatan and myself (Nick) holding his Maudsley Hospital journals from 1952 and 1953

Dr. Fred Charatan and myself (Nick) holding his Maudsley Hospital journals from 1952 and 1953

Fred's journal showing the date of his first interview with William Kurelek on Sept 4th 1952

Fred’s journal showing the date of his first interview with William Kurelek on Sept 4th 1952

During Dr. Charatan’s time working at Maudsley Hospital in the early 1950’s, he was senior registrar and an assistant to professor Sir Aubrey Lewis who “was the first Professor of Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, and is credited as being a driving force behind the flowering of British psychiatry after WWII as well as raising the profile of the profession worldwide.” (quoted from Wikipedia). It is believed that Kurelek depicted Sir Aubrey Lewis in a compartment of The Mazepainting where doctors are studying a man in a test tube.  It’s very likely that Fred is also depicted as one of the doctors in the painting.

Sir Aubrey Lewis pictured left next to a detail section from The Maze painting of doctors studying a man in a test tube

Sir Aubrey Lewis pictured left next to a detail section from The Maze painting of doctors studying a man in a test tube

Among the many insights Fred shared with me, he said that he never thought William was schizophrenic, but rather that he suffered from severe depression leading to self-isolation. We talked in detail on this subject and about other serious problems that the young artist struggled with. In Patricia Morley’s biography Kurelek, Morley writes that William had suffered from “chronic eye pain that had plagued him since adolescence and that had hampered his ability to paint…Bill had found an article on psychosomatic illness in a reading rack in his ward. The piece stated that psychosomatic eye pain could never actually lead to blindness in its sufferers. When staff physician Dr. Charatan confirmed the point the following day, the pain disappeared within an hour.” Bill writes in his autobiography that “I did a lot of paintings in the hospital, many with fine detail, but there was no eye pain, I was exultant…if only the depression and de-personalization could likewise be removed.” Thankfully for us, he was able to continue creating the many paintings we enjoy and study today.

Actor Arie Verveen Performs Shakespeare’s Hamlet for William Kurelek’s TheMaze

Last but certainly not least, we’re proud to announce that Arie Verveen, one of our favorite actors, gave a breathtaking performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet forWilliam Kurelek’s The Maze. You’ve seen him before in films such as The Thin Red Line, Sin City, and our father Robert M. Young’s film Caught to name a few. Click here to see his imdb page and a list of his many other films.

Actor Arie Verveen gave a breathtaking performance of Shakespeare's Hamlet for William Kurelek's The Maze

Actor Arie Verveen gave a breathtaking performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet for William Kurelek’s The Maze

For those of you that have seen WK’s The Maze, you’ll remember that during the animation sequence of the painting Behold Man Without God (featuring a monkey conducting an orchestra of pigs) there is a rat/human-like creature with a torn page of verse from Hamlet lying on top of it. One of the famous lines is “What a piece of work is a man.”

Detail from Kurelek's painting Behold Man Without God featuring a rat/human-like creature with a verse from Hamlet written on a torn page

Detail from Kurelek’s painting Behold Man Without God featuring a rat/human-like creature with a verse from Hamlet written on a torn page

It wasn’t until I heard Arie’s performance of this verse that I felt that I finally really understood Shakespeare for the first time…or I should say experienced Shakespeare for the first time. You can’t just read Shakespeare… without the proper delivery, the words are meaningless. Shakespeare is not meant to be read. The verses are meant to be pondered and felt, not just by the audience but by the actual performer. It’s like listening to Miles Davis perform. He’s discovering the notes just like the audience, one note at a time. The story reveals itself to the performer just as it’s revealed to the audience. Arie struck these notes so beautifully and I can’t wait to share the new version with you. The animation is also being extended to feature more sections of the painting. I’ve copied the verse from Hamlet below for you to “read”…or I should say “ponder”…

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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