George Kenneth Shopen was born in Elgin, Illinois in 1902, the son of a watchmaker. At age 18 he became a staff writer for Elgin Daily News, but soon enrolled as an English major at the University of Illinois, where he received his B.A. in 1925. He went on to teach part time at Chicago's Latin School for Boys, which led to his position as an instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1931 to 1945. The U.S. War Department hired Shopen as an artist and teacher in France and Germany in 1945. He became a Professor of Art at the University of Illinois, Chicago, in 1946.
Shopen worked as an art critic for the Chicago Daily News between 1953 and 1956. During the early years of television, he appeared on the "Impact" show, discussing the latest developments in art.
Shopen exhibited at A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) in 1933 and at the International Watercolor Exhibition, AIC in 1935. He exhibited yearly at the AIC Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture between 1931 and1949 and had a two person show at the Art Institute's Room of Chicago Art: ÒPaintings by Harry Mintz and Kenneth Shopen, Dec.7, 1944-Jan.21, 1945. Shopen retired to Norwich, Vermont, where he died on November 13, 1967.