Jack Shadbolt was born in 1909 in Shoeburyness, England, and came to Canada in 1912. The young Shadbolt was raised in Victoria, British Columbia. His father was a craftsman and his mother a dressmaker. Shadbolt struggled to be understood in a culture that, when he began, was not ready for modern art. He studied in New York, London, and Paris. During World War II he was in charge of the Canadian Army War Artists in London.
Shadbolt taught at the Vancouver School of Art from 1938 to 1966 and was an important contributor to the development of abstraction and modernism in this region and in Canada. Indeed, he is widely regarded as one of Canada's most important artists of the 20th C. and his work has continued to appreciate in value and reach an ever-growing audience since his death in 1998. A.J. Kristiansen, in a 1990, exhibition catalogue observed "on one level, Shadbolt's paintings participate in the international dialogue of twentieth century modernism and post modernism - [but] unlike his eastern contemporaries, Shadbolt's primitivist interests were local - Northwest Coast aboriginal art. Even his 1980's works, which in a global sense can be seen as connected to the ecological movement, are site specific. They represent the landscape of B.C."
Shadbolt's work is represented in all major public collections in Canada and in numerous corporate and private collections. He was the recipient of many awards throughout his career and with his wife Doris established the VIVA Foundation, which provides funding for visual artists. Shadbolt died in 1998.