Jack Leonard Shadbolt or Jack Shadbolt (February 4, 1909-November 22, 1998) was an inspirational, motivating, and innovative England born Canadian painter and teacher. Jack’s landscape paintings propel a change in artistic vision and make you think about the metamorphosis of life. Jack Shadbolt’s ‘Primitivism’ flavored ‘Aboriginal Art’ style was compounded by that of Spanish painters, Pablo Picasso & Joan Miró and English painter Graham Sutherland. Jack Shadbolt adopted their modes and started depicting his subjects in multiple facets, thereby imparting a certain edge and mystery to his paintings. As mentioned above, Shadbolt would mostly portray nature and personal experiences through his paintings, as is evident in his masterpiece titled “The Butterfly-Summer Icon” (1977).
An ink, latex, and acrylic on board triptych, “The Butterfly-Summer Icon” measures 60″ x 120″ (152.4 cm x 304.8 cm). Here, Jack depicts the changing phases of life through a muted transformation of a butterfly from a small larva to a full-grown butterfly. The viewer feels a strange sensitivity as well as a dark side attached to this painting, since some of the butterflies look fizzled off. This represents a person’s emotional and personal battle on two expressional extremes. Shadbolt tried demonstrating various human feelings through butterflies, such as eroticism, pain, celebration, and freedom. He painted some of the butterflies in bright summer sunlight to celebrate nature, while some butterflies are dark, portraying an apocalyptic presence of life. Shadbolt painted the butterflies in different shapes and sizes, sometimes minuscule and sometimes immensely huge. This gives the viewer a chance to scrutinize the various transformations of a butterfly’s life.
“The Butterfly-Summer Icon” is a ‘Surrealist’ work, ‘Symbolizing’ the subconscious conflicts and struggle initially, evolving finally into renewal and wisdom. The changing phases of “The Butterfly-Summer Icon” therefore, are a manifestation of our changing ideals and goals with time, and their blending with the outer world. The artwork was first exhibited at Bau-Xi Gallery, Toronto, in 1977 and is now a part of private collection at Toronto. Jack Shadbolt, with his ability to beautifully portray the subconscious, inspires young artists. He would blend memories and creative or fabricated imagination in his works. He gained immediate critical acclaim and laurels for “The Butterfly-Summer Icon.” He quoted once, “I saw the butterfly as a powerful symbol of the natural and spiritual will to survive through change and transformation-a symbol all the more potent in contrast with the fragile and ephemeral beauty of its subject.”
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