Figure 1 Publishing

Art + Design / Forthcoming

Jack Shadbolt

In His Words

Introduced and edited by Susan Mertens
Co-published with the Audain Art Museum

An intimately candid memoir about the ambitions, struggles, and achievements of one of Canada’s most prolific and important modernist artists.


Book Description

Why do I paint? I paint because I must.
But why must I? As Picasso would
answer, why must a bird sing?

I want a kind of dangerous art, risking the daemonic—
a form emerging out of chaos like a rare monster surfacing from the deep, throwing off
spumes, breathing the air.

Jack Leonard Shadbolt (1909–1998) was one of Canada’s most prolific modernist artists, deeply influenced both by the West Coast landscapes and cultures that surrounded him and by the wider international currents in artmaking. Throughout his life, he remained singularly fixated on the question of how to make great art, bringing articulate and piercing analysis to a life-long search for meaning through his ceaseless acts of art.

He also yearned—as we all do—to belong and to be understood. Using excerpts from his sometimes startlingly self-confessional journals, letters, talks, and writings, as well as his poetry, arts critic Susan Mertens—who enjoyed a twenty-five-year friendship with Shadbolt—crafts an intimate and candid collage of an extraordinarily driven and divided personality navigating the rapidly changing social and artistic challenges of the 20th century.

This is the memoir Shadbolt never quite got around to writing.



  • Hardcover
  • 6.75 × 9 inches
  • 208 pages
  • 978-1-77327-255-9
  • $40.00 CDN / $30.00 USD
  • October 2024