Jean McEwen was born in 1923. He studied pharmacy at the University of Montréal graduating in 1952. Shortly after his graduation, McEwen decided to pursue a career as an artist.
McEwen was inspired by the Montréal group of painters Les Automatistes. He appreciated their experimental, non-representational, spontaneous approach to creating art. Paul-Émile Borduas encouraged McEwen to visit Riopelle who was living in Paris and McEwen did just that.
By 1952, McEwen was painting in a style no doubt influenced by Riopelle, he used palette knives to create his works a method he later abandoned when he began working with his fingers.
In 1957, and over the next few years, McEwen worked on a series of experimental paintings that explored space, colour, and light. He often used many layers of paint and explored the many possiblities using translucent and opaque colour.
McEwen also created a series of artist books, and stained glass windows that were installed at Concordia University in Montréal.
McEwen exhibited internationally, his work is part of many public and private collections, such as The National Gallery of Canada.
In the 1960's he was president of the Non-Figurative Artists Association of Montréal. He won numerous awards and was a member of The Royal Canadian Academy.
He died in 1999 in Montréal.