Jack Shadbolt, 1909 - 1998

He always had this wonderful inventiveness. I remember him taking photographs of football players, painting over them and transforming them into owls.
— Abraham Rogatnick on Jack Shadbolt
There was an incredible foreboding to some of his work.
— Alan Wood

Jack Shadbolt was born in Shoeburyness, England in 1909. His parents emigrated to British Columbia in April 1911, when he was just two years old, eventually settling in Victoria.

His informal artistic training began in 1925 when he met Max Maynard and went on sketching trips with him. Around the same time he met West Coast artist Emily Carr in Victoria. Carr’s images of West Coast First Nations symbols impressed Shadbolt, who would return to the theme and incorporate Native imagery into his own later work.

From 1928 to 1937, he taught high school in Duncan and Vancouver, B.C. while attending night classes under Frederick Varley at the Vancouver School of Art (V.S.A., now the Emily Carr University of Art and Design). In 1938, he began teaching at the V.S.A. and was the Head of Painting and Drawing Section until 1966.

However, Shadbolt would take leave from his teaching position to serve in World War II as acting administrative officer for the Canadian Army War Artists Program in London England. Shadbolt spent his days sorting through photographs taken at concentration camps and his evenings wandering through the ruins of London. It was near the end of the war and the destruction London was vast. The half-bombed out ruins of buildings, “deconstructed by bombs” along with the imagery of concentration camps had a profound psychological affect on him and themes of devastation and loss along with dark imagery of skeletons and ruins would emerge in his work. 

In 1944, Shadbolt met Doris Meisel; they married a year later and would eventually become a power-couple in the West Coast art scene. In 1988, he and Doris started VIVA, the Vancouver Institute for Visual Arts, which offered generous financial awards to local visual artists and supported the Artists for Kids Trust, generating $500,000 to assist Vancouver-area students. To reflect the Shadbolt's lifetime support of the arts, the Burnaby Arts Centre was renamed the The Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, in 1995.

Shadbolt wrote three books on art and was an influential artist and teacher. He was the first artist to lead a workshop at the Emma Lake Artists' Workshops, in 1955.

In his later years, Shadbolt became interested in ideas of transformation and metamorphoses, painting clear-cut landscapes and butterflies from chrysalises. He experimented with a variety of styles and subjects, creating prints, watercolours and paintings using mixed media. 

Shadbolt passed away in 1998. Doris set him up in a bed in his studio, in his mountainside house in Burnaby, B.C. He was surrounded by his own transformative work. He was 89.

Guggenheim Award (1957)
Molson Prize in (1977)
Gershon Iskowitz Award in (1990)
Honorary Degrees from four universities
Order of Canada (1972)
 Freeman of the City of Vancouver (1989)
Represented Canada in the Venice & Sao Paulo Biennials

Selected Collections
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON
The Burnaby Art Gallery, Burnaby, BC
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC
University Victoria, Victoria, BC
Penticton Art Gallery, Penticton, BC
The Feckless Collection, Vancouver, BC