Recently I got a call from John Teti about a poster for a gig at the Commodore Ballroom featuring a band called the Motifs Picasso.Teti and Roger Gibson ran many of Vancouver’s top nightspots over the years, from Puccini’s to Richard’s on Richards and Club Soda. But they had never heard of the Motifs Picasso.They were trying to find out the year of the gig for a friend, art collector Tom Gautreau. Gautreau was looking at buying the poster, because it was by Vancouver art legend Jack Shadbolt.A quick search of The Vancouver Sun’s archive on newspapers.com showed that the event was on April 16, 1947. But Motifs Picasso wasn’t a band name.The Beaux Arts Ball was a dance put on by students at the Vancouver College of Art and the Women’s Auxiliary of the Vancouver Art Gallery. And the “Motif” of the event was “Picasso.”Shadbolt’s poster was a riff on Picasso’s famed 1920s paintings of musicians, which were done in his cubist period. In Shadbolt’s Picasso the main image is two guitarists who look like harlequins, assembled out of a variety of shapes and colours.The lettering for the poster is a mix of styles from the eras Picasso worked in. “Beaux Arts Ball” is Art Nouveau, for example, while “Commodore April 16” is Art Deco.The poster is just a killer. It also came directly out of Shadbolt’s estate, which was purchased by Andy Sylvester of the Equinox Gallery.“This is a gauche (painting), which is sort of in between watercolour and acrylic paint, which he used on illustration board,” Sylvester explains. “He had probably seen a Picasso show by travelling to New York, just before making the poster, so he had images he wanted to use.”
Jack Shadbolt’s Picasso poster for the Beaux Arts Ball at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver on April 16, 1947. Revellers at the ball were supposed to dress up like characters from Picasso’s art.
Sylvester thinks it was probably a design for a poster that was put up around town. But he’s never found a poster of the image, so it might have been a painting that Shadbolt put up at the Vancouver School of Art, where he was teaching at the time.“If anyone has a poster, I’d love to see one,” said Sylvester.In any event, the Beaux Arts Ball sounds like a swingin’ affair. Six hundred people showed up, clad in costumes designed like Picasso paintings.“Costumes are all adapted from his eight periods of expression: Peasant, Portrait, Classic, Romantic (Blue and Rose), Negro and Bone, Cubistic, Distortion and Stained Glass,” said a Vera Kelly story in the April 12, 1947, Sun.Kelly’s story was accompanied by photos of some of the costumes. Mrs. Robert Hume — yes, the 1947 Sun often identified women by their husband’s name — looked like a dream in a dress featuring a Picasso-like eye and face from his stained-glass period. Newton Bates wore a “grimacing mask” inspired by Picasso’s tragic masterpiece from the Spanish Civil War, Guernica. Pat Hanford’s “pretty face” was hidden underneath a “solemn mask of the Old Guitarist from Picasso’s Blue Period.”They gave out awards for the best costumes at the ball. One of the winners was Jack Shadbolt’s wife Doris, “whose spectacular get-up simulated a boneless creature dreamed up by Picasso, draped around her neck.”
Dec. 8, 1961. Ray Allan photo of Doris Shadbolt. Cutline was ‘Beautiful and unusual silver jewelry and ‘small pieces of sculpture’ by Doris Shadbolt are on display at New Design gallery until Dec. 30.’
Ray Allan /
Doris Shadbolt is a Vancouver art legend in her own right. She was the chief curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery for two decades, and in 1967 teamed with Bill Reid on the breakthrough Art of the Raven show, the first time a big art gallery exhibited First Nations works as art, rather than artifacts or ethnic crafts.Doris died in 2003; Jack in 1998. Going through the estate, Sylvester found Jack would give Doris a painting as a Christmas card every year.“There was one that was in a very bad frame, and when I picked it up the frame broke,” said Sylvester. “And I could see in the back that there was another picture, so I turned it over. The Christmas card was vertical, but the other picture was horizontal. And the image looked like a spectacular Emily Carr, with a Haida canoe and big cedar trees sitting on the edge of the ocean.”Sylvester did some research and found that Shadbolt had visited Haida Gwaii in 1949, but was unhappy with the paintings he did, because they looked too much like Carr’s work.“He said, ‘I’ve done five paintings, and I’ve destroyed them,’ ” Sylvester said. “But destroyed them in the Shadbolt terminology was actually to reuse them.”In one sense, Sylvester said, Shadbolt was right — the painting “was very influenced by Emily Carr.” But like the Shadbolt Picasso, the Shadbolt Carr has a distinctive Shadbolt touch, and is drop-dead beautiful.Sylvester had it mounted in a special frame, so you can see the abstract work Shadbolt painted for Doris for Christmas, 1951 on one side, and his 1949 painting of a Haida village on the other. And it’s one of Sylvester’s most-prized email@example.com
Jack Shadbolt’s painting of a Haida village, circa 1949. Shadbolt thought it was too much like an Emily Carr painting, so he discarded it. He did another painting on the flip side for his wife Doris in 1951, and this unknown image was discovered after her death.
Jack Shadbolt by Bill Cunningham of The Province, Oct. 21, 1957.
Bill Cunningham Province photo. /
Jack Shadbolt’s 1951 Christmas card painting to his wife Doris. Andy Sylvester of the Equinox Gallery discovered a Shadbolt painting of a village in Haida Gwaii on the flip side of the painting.
The Vancouver Sun ran a full-page advance story on the Beaux Arts Ball on April 12, 1947.
A photo of Doris Shadbolt, right, in her Picasso costume ran on the front page of The Province on April 17, 1947.
The Vancouver Sun’s story on the Beaux Arts Ball on April 17, 1947.