| John Richard Chambers is primarily known as Jack Richard Chambers
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401 Towards London No. 1 - Oil on mahogany 72" X 96", dated 1968 - 1969. Collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Gift of Norcen Energy Resources Limited
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|"As a painter and theorist, he has relentlessly explored the nature of
realism as a mirror of human existence. In his search, he has moved
consciously through more realist variations than any other Canadian
painter.” – Paul Duval, “High Realism in Canada”. (1)|
Jack Chambers (AKA: John Chambers, AKA: John Richard Chambers) was an
important Canadian painter, draftsman, printmaker, filmmaker (2), art
theorist and national leader in the artist community.
He was born in London, Ontario and, aside from eight years studying and
working in Spain (1953 – 1961), lived most of his life there and died
His painting and graphic mediums included oil paint, aluminum paint,
watercolor, chalk, pencil, ink, collage, silkscreen*, lithography*,
photolithography, photography and mixed mediums. His subjects included
social commentary, symbolism*, religion, mysticism, dreams, the
unconscious, portraits, landscape, interiors, figures, nudes, still
life, flowers, genre*, allegory*, his family and London, Ontario. His
styles included Surrealism*, Realism*, Photo Realism* and Regionalism*.
Quote - “The more real the painting is, the more mysterious it is.” – Jack Chambers (5).
His art education includes the H.B. Beal Technical School (1946 – 1949)
under Herbert Ariss (6) and John O'Henly (1923); the University of
Western Ontario, London (six months in 1952); and the Royal Academy of
Fine Arts of San Fernando, Madrid, Spain (1954 – 1959) where he studied
under Julio Moisés, Joaquim Valverde and Gregorio Toledo. (7)
His travels include: Mexico (1950); New York City, Naples, Rome, Gratza
(Austria), Southern France, Barcelona, Majorca (1953); and India (1975,
1977). He also travelled frequently in Europe. (8)
Chambers’ greatest legacy as an activist and leader in the artist
community, is his part; along with Tony Urquhart, Kim Ondaatje (1928),
Greg Curnoe and Ron Martin; in the founding of CARFAC* (Canadian
Artists' Representation/le Front des artistes Canadiens) the artist’s
advocacy group in 1968 (President,1968 – 1975) (9). He was also a
founder of the London Film Makers’ Co-op (1968) and an associate member
and council member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (1971). (10)
Over the years his works have been included in group shows and landmark
exhibitions in many of the most important Canadian public venues
including the “Annual Western Ontario Exhibition”, Museum London,
Ontario [formerly London Public Library and Art Museum] (1949, 1951,
1962); “The Winnipeg Show”, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1962); the
“5th Biennial Exhibition of Canadian Art”, National Gallery of Canada,
Ottawa (1963); “Surrealism in Canadian Painting”, Museum London (1964);
“Canadian Watercolors, Drawings and Prints”, The National Gallery of
Canada (1964); “Focus on Drawings”, Art Gallery of Ontario,
Toronto (1965); “New Trends in Canadian Painting”, Agnes Etherington
Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario (1965); “Images for a Canadian Heritage”,
Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (1966); “Three Hundred Years of Canadian
Art”, National Gallery of Canada (1967); “18th Annual Winter
Exhibition”, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario (1967); “Director’s
Choice”, Confederation Art Gallery, Charlottetown, P.E.I. (1967);
“Canadian Art Today”, Canadian Pavilion, Expo ’67, Montreal (1967);
“Canadian Artists ’68”, Art Gallery of Ontario (1968); “The Heart of
London”, National Gallery of Canada (1968); “Magic Realism in Canada”,
University of Guelph, Ontario (1969); “Realism(e)s”, Montreal Museum of
Fine Arts (1970); “Realism: Emulsion and Emission”, Agnes Etherington
Art Centre (1973); “Through the Looking Glass Toward a New Reality”,
Art Gallery of Ontario (1975); “Changing Visions: The Canadian
Landscape”, Art Gallery of Alberta [formerly Edmonton Art Gallery]
(1976); and “Through Canadian Eyes: Trends and Influences in Canadian
Art 1815 – 1965”, Glenbow Museum, Calgary (1976). (11)
He also exhibited in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Spring Shows
between 1964 and 1970 (12) and with the Ontario Society of Artists in
The public venues for his solo exhibitions include Gallery One,
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg (1968); Art Gallery of Ontario,
Toronto [retrospective] (1970); Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C.
[retrospective] (1970); Museum London, Ontario [memorial show] (1980);
Canada House, London, England (1980); Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris,
France (1980); and a travelling retrospective organized by Museum
Posthumously, his works were included in “Reflecting a rural
consciousness”, Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, France (1980); “The
Heart of London Revisited”, Museum London (1993); and “Speaking about
Landscape, Speaking to the Land”, Art Gallery of Ontario (2003). (13)
The venues for his private gallery solo and group shows include Nancy
Poole’s Studio, Toronto; 20/20 Gallery, London; The Isaacs Gallery,
Toronto; Agnes Lefort Gallery, Montreal; Forum Gallery, New York, NY;
Gallery of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Lorca Gallery, Madrid, Spain.
Chambers’ works are in many private and corporate collections. Examples
are also in the permanent collections of numerous Canadian museums
including Museum London (Ontario), the Art Gallery of Hamilton
(Ontario), the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia
University, Montreal), the Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba), the
Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax),
the Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), the McMichael
Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), the Owens Art Gallery
(Sackville, N.B.), the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery (Owen Sound,
Ontario), the Simon Fraser University Gallery (Burnaby, B.C.), the Art
Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), the Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina,
Saskatchewan) and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. There are 11
Chambers works in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of
Canada and 40 in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario. There is
also a painting of his in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
(Washington, D.C.). (14)
His awards include the Elizabeth T. Greenshields Foundation Scholarship
(Montreal) for study in Spain (1956); and five Canada Council Grants
(1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1977). (15)
His honors include an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the
University of Western Ontario (1969) and the Queen Elizabeth Silver
Jubilee Medal (1977). Posthumously, London, Ontario named a public
school after him in 1992. (16)
(1) High Realism in Canada (1974), by Paul Duval (see AskART books).
(2) “Chambers’ reputation as a film artist is based on the five works
he completed between 1966 and 1970: Mosaic (1964 – 1966), Hybrid
(1967), R34 (1967), Circle (1968 – 1969) and “The Hart of London” (1968
– 1970). A mixture of newsreel footage, home movies and photographs,
these films reject the notion of linear time, characteristic of popular
cinema, because Chambers thought the narrative illusions that resulted
misrepresented the true character of human perception.” Source: Excerpt
from Kathryn Elder article –
Also, see AskART book references, The Films of Jack Chambers (2002),
by Kathryn Elder.
(3) Source: National Gallery of Canada artist’s page
and "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald
(see AskART book references).
(4.1) Source: Museum illustrations and descriptions of mediums in the
Canadian Heritage Information Network* data base, the Centre for
Contemporary Canadian Art* artist’s timeline, the National Gallery of
Canada artist’s page, and “High Realism in Canada” (1974), by Paul
Duval (see AskART books).
(4.2) Chambers preferred the term “Perceptual Realism” to describe his
realist works; suggesting in his writings that “... perception is a
selective process based on subjective awareness.” Source: " Art and
Architecture in Canada” (1991), by Loren R. Lerner and Mary F.
Williamson – referring to October 1969 article by John Chambers
(5) Sources: Arts and Artists magazine, December 1972 quoted on page
61 “High Realism in Canada” (1974), by Paul Duval (see AskART books).
(6) All artists, teachers, and associates mentioned in this biography,
except those with bracketed dates after their names, have their own
pages in AskART.
(7) Source: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S.
MacDonald; and Contemporary Canadian Art (1983), by David Burnett and
Marilyn Schiff (see AskART book references). Author’s note: While
preparing this biography several English translations of the Spanish
school’s name were encountered; they included “Royal Academy School in
Madrid”, “Madrid Academy School”, “Madrid Academy”, “Royal Academy of
Fine Arts, Madrid” and “St. Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts”; we
are using the school’s version found on the Real Academia de Bellas
Artes de San Fernando website http://rabasf.insde.es/.
(8) Source: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references).
(9) “In 1968, CAR was established in response to artists' perception
that their crucial contribution to society was not fairly compensated.
As a result, CAR established minimum fee schedules outlining
recommended rates for compensating artists, a practice which CARFAC
continues. It was because of the early activism of CAR members that in
1976, Canada became the first country in the world to pay exhibition
fees to artists, with the Canada Council for the Arts making payment of
fees to artists based on the CARFAC fee schedule a requirement for
eligibility for funding to public art galleries. After many more years
of lobbying, the Copyright Act was amended in 1988, recognizing
artists' role as primary producers of culture by giving them legal
entitlement to exhibition and other fees.
Today, CARFAC and its provincial affiliates work on many of the same
issues, ensuring that artists are fairly compensated for the valuable
contributions that they make to society and that artists' rights are
respected by those with whom they engage in business. In addition,
CARFAC and its affiliates have developed programming, publications and
products to help artists reach their professional goals.” Source:
(10) Source: Passionate Spirits: A History of the Royal Canadian
Academy of Arts, 1880 – 1980 by Rebecca Sisler (see AskART book
references) and The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art*
(11) Unless otherwise noted the primary source for exhibition dates and
venues is The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art*
(12) The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar.
(13) Source: Art Gallery of Ontario archived catalogues (online).
(14) Sources: Canadian Heritage Information Network*; "Contemporary
Artists" (1977), by Colin Naylor and Genesis P-Orrige (see AskART book
references); and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian
Institution, Washington, D.C. -
(15) Source: The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art*.
(16) Sources: The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art* and Jack Chambers Public School http://www.tvdsb.ca/JackChambers.cfm.
* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see
Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.
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