"Art that is vital is always closest to home".
Artist Jack Shadbolt's work deeply reflected his travels and life experiences. Born in Essex County in the Village of Shoeburyness, England, before immigrating to Canada in 1912, Shadbolt found early work and inspiration alongside his parents, assisting his father, a sign painter, and his mother, a dress maker, the latter of which would go on to greatly influence his artistic process.
Shadbolt began his studies at Victoria College in 1927 finding both consistency and creativity. In 1930 he met Emily Carr, an artist he would claim as a great life-long inspiration. Shadbolt, a passionate learner went on to study at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts in 1931, as well as, the Euston Road School in1937, followed by the Académie-Grande Chaumière and the André Lhote School of Art in 1938.
The advent of World War II turned his practice towards social realism. After failing to find a job as a war artist in 1942, he enlisted in the army and documented his experiences in sketches. After moving several times, he was posted to London in 1945 to work for the Canadian Army War Artists Service, where he was responsible for classifying and cataloguing concentration camp photographs. The devastated city and his day-to-day work had a strong influence on the artist that will be reflected in his work for years to come.
After the war, Shadbolt and his wife Doris returned to British Columbia before moving to New York in 1948. There, Shadbolt attended the Art Students' League through 1948-49 and Hans Hofmann's "Criticism" course. His time in New York left an indelible mark on his practice and teachings. Shadbolt was an influential teacher. He taught painting at the Vancouver Art School of Art. In 1955, he was the first professor at the Emma Lake Workshop at the College of Regina, Saskatchewan.
In Jack Shadbolt's later years, he became interested in ideas of transformation and metamorphoses, painting clear-cut landscapes and butterflies from chrysalises. The foundation for his later works was not only heavily influenced by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and Graham Sutherland but also by his stay at Buccaneer Bay in Victoria in 1947. Shadbolt's fascination with rebirth was so often tinged with a sense of despair and desolation, a veil that continued to blanket his work post WWII. There was an eager optimism prescribed within a palette of at times solemn and disturbing elements.
Jack Shadbolt represented Canada at numerous prestigious events such as the Venice and São Paulo Biennales, the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh, and the Brussels and Seattle World's Fairs. In 1972, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 1988, the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Visual Arts Foundation was established which supports annual awards programs. In memoriam, the Burnaby Arts Center renamed itself the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in 1995 as a testament to Shadbolt's lifelong contribution to the arts.