A Given Number of Owls

Jack Shadbolt (1909 - 1998)
Close-up view of A Given Number of Owls.
© Justin Wonnacott
ArtistJack Shadbolt (1909 - 1998)
Nationality Canadian
Medium Acrylic on board
Dimensions 6.0m x 1.5m
Acquisition Commission
Date 1972

This mural, one of Jack Shadbolt’s (1909 – 1998) most significant works, was originally commissioned for display behind one of the National Arts Centre’s bars and was the final acquisition of the original Visual Arts Committee in 1969. It consists of six panels, each bearing four impressions of owls. Each owl exhibits a different expression and is covered with numbers, a specific reference to hockey jerseys. Each element – the owls, numbers, and jerseys – represent recurring motifs in the artist’s work and this piece stands as a culmination of this particular style that was characteristic of the latter half of the artist’s career.

Born in England, Jack Shadbolt grew up in Victoria, B.C. and worked primarily in Vancouver throughout his career. He studied art in England, France, and New York. In 1957, he won a Canadian Government Overseas Fellowship to work in France. He rose to become a prominent Canadian artist, teacher, writer, and lecturer on matters of art. Hailed as one of Canada’s leading abstract expressionist artists, Jack Shadbolt has represented Canada at many international exhibitions including the Venice and Sao Paolo Biennials, the Carnegie International at Pittsburgh, the Brussels and Seattle World Fairs and numerous travelling exhibitions. Winner of several awards, in 1972 he was appointed to the Order of Canada.

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