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Doris Shadbolt was born in Preston Ontario on November 28, 1918 and studied Fine Art under Charles Comfort and John Alford at the University of Toronto where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1941. In 1950, she began to work at the Vancouver Art Gallery and was responsible for art education at the Gallery until her appointment as Curator in 1963, a position she held until 1975. While she was Curator, the Gallery became one of the best-known art institutions in Canada. After her tenure, she continued to support the Gallery through donations and also gave an endowment at the end of her life.
Shadbolt was also a noted author, having written books about West Coast artists: The Art of Emily Carr in 1979, Bill Reid in 1986 (which won two BC Book Awards), and Seven Journeys: The Sketchbooks of Emily Carr in 2001. In 1987, Doris and Jack Shadbolt established the Jack and Doris Shadbolt foundation in order to give annual VIVA awards to individual artists. In 2000, she received a Governor General's Award for her contribution to the arts.
Shadbolt passed away in December of 2003, at the age of 85.