Jack Shadbolt has developed an international reputation as a distinguished modern artist, lecturer, and writer. Throughout his career he has written extensively about art and the creative process. He was born in Shoeburyness, England, in 1909, and in 1912, emigrated with his family to Victoria.
In his youth, he spent long hours studying the collections of Northwest Coast First Nations Art in provincial museums and galleries. He met Emily Carr in 1930, and was deeply influenced by her work. At that time, he was already aware that he wanted to become an artist. Shadbolt attended Victoria College in 1926-1927 and entered the Provincial Normal School in Victoria in 1929. He began his career as a teacher in Duncan, and in 1931 moved to Vancouver where he taught at Kitsilano High School for several years.
During the thirties, Shadbolt began to articulate his artistic ideas that the development of a modern Northwest Coast indigenous art must be profoundly rooted in a sense of place. In this sense, Shadbolt felt modern artists could learn from First Nations traditions. During this time, his work reflected the influence of Surrealism, and much of his art documented the modern industrial landscape of Vancouver. In 1937, he studied in London, and then in Paris with Andre Lhote. In 1938, he began teaching at the Vancouver School of Art, and was the Head of Drawing and Painting Section until 1966.
In 1942, Shadbolt joined the army, and in 1944 was assigned to the War Artists Administration in London. After the war, in 1945, he married Doris Meisel Shadbolt, and returned to Vancouver. In 1948, he attended the Art Students' League in New York where he was influenced by the work of the Abstract Expressionists. In the same year he audited a course in the history of mythology at the New School for Social Research.
In the fifties, he exhibited frequently, and led the West Coast renaissance in painting. In 1966, after 35 years of teaching, he left the Vancouver School of Art to paint full time. After several trips to the Mediterranean, he introduced sharp, bright colour into his palette.
In the seventies, he extended his interest in native and primitive art and produced a series of fetish images and ritual transformation themes on the growth cycle of the butterfly. In 1975, he traveled to Iran, Afghanistan and India, which resulted in his large scale India Suite of twenty panels in serial form.
His art is widely represented in major public and corporate collections in Canada. He has exhibited his work in numerous solo exhibitions in major centres in North America and Europe. His work has also been included in many important group exhibitions in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Europe and Australia.
Shadbolt has been the recipient of many awards, including the Canadian Government Overseas Fellowship in 1956, the Canadian Guggenheim International Award in 1957, the Centennial Medal in 1967, the University of Alberta National Award for Painting in 1969, the Order of Canada in 1972, and the Ontario Society of Artists Award in 1981. As well, he has received three honorary Doctorate of Law degrees from the University of Victoria in 1973, Simon Fraser University in 1978, and The University of British Columbia in 1978.