I paint realistically but I am not a true realist because I take poetic licence when painting ... I like to feel that I have enabled the viewer to see beyond a mere likeness of the subject and understand why I thought the subject worth expressing. I have been called a poetic-realist.
Excerpt from artist statement in 12 Newfoundland Painters exhibition publication, organized by Memorial University Art Gallery, 1985.
Reginald Shepherd was born in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland, in 1924. Shepherd lived in several Newfoundland outports while he was growing up, due to his father's profession as a school principal. As a young boy, he accompanied A.E. Harris, a local artist, on sketching trips around the Conception Bay area.
Shepherd was a sign painter at the Argentia American Military Base in 1941, before entering military service where he became a medic. During World War II, while stationed in Gander, Newfoundland, he took evening art lessons from a British serviceman who was a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art. For Freedom, one of Shepherd's paintings from this period, was exhibited in a show of servicemen's art at the National Gallery of Canada.
After the war, Shepherd went to the Ontario College of Art where he met fellow Newfoundlander, Helen Parsons. They married in 1948. The couple moved back to St. John's in 1949 and established the Newfoundland Academy of Art. Initially, the NAA was a house in downtown St. John's renovated to accommodate the school, the Shepherd's own private studios and their living quarters.
Shepherd lectured on art at Memorial University of Newfoundland and began an art therapy program at the Waterford Hospital. After the academy's closure in 1961, he taught art for 18 years at Prince of Wales Collegiate, a St. John's high school, and continued to make his own work, chiefly serigraphs of the Conception Bay area.
Shepherd's landscapes have a fairytale quality that he describes as "poetic realism." In 1956, he was awarded a Royal Society of Canada Fellowship which gave him the opportunity to study in Europe for one year. Shepherd was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1976 and received an honorary degree from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1988.
In addition to the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador's Permanent Collection, Shepherd's work is part of private and public collections including those of the Assembly of First Nations, Ottawa; Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax; and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Shepherd spent summers at his home and studio in Clarke's Beach, Newfoundland, and winters in St. John's.