Born Sydney, Australia 1935
Following her training at the National Gallery Art School, Melbourne, (1953–56), Janet Dawson was awarded the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship which set her on a path of artistic discovery and innovation. Dawson used her scholarship to travel to Europe and, at the age of 21, enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, where she studied and excelled in lithography. While in Europe she visited major exhibitions of abstract artists including Wassily Kandinsky and Jackson Pollock, an experience which would have a significant influence on her work.
While still at the Slade, Dawson began to experiment with abstraction in her own work, producing numerous drawings and prints incorporating marks and symbols. Following her formal studies she travelled and worked in Italy in 1959, and then France where she worked as a proof printer at the Paris lithography studio, Atelier Patris.
Dawson returned to Melbourne in 1960 and established the Gallery A Print Workshop, where she assisted many artists, including Fred Williams, Russell Drysdale, John Brack and Albert Tucker, in their lithographic endeavours. Her continued exploration of non-objective art through her own practice led to her inclusion in the 1968 landmark exhibition ‘The Field’ at the National Gallery of Victoria. Dawson also painted portraits of family and friends throughout her career, and in 1973 she won the Archibald Prize with the painting of her husband, Michael Boddy reading.
Ballerina (1955) was painted while Dawson was still a student and illustrates her talent and interest in portraiture from a young age. According to the artist, the painting was done in the life class at the Art Gallery School during the lead up to the Scholarship Year. The model was a local dancer hired to pose for the class. Dawson also created a number of sketches of the model resting between poses which are held in the National Gallery of Victoria’s Drawing Collection.
Dawson was the subject of a survey exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1979 and a retrospective of her work, The Drawings of Janet Dawson, 1956 to the Present, was presented by the National Gallery of Australia in 1996. A major survey of her work, Janet Dawson Survey 1953–2006, was presented by Bathurst Regional Gallery and toured widely. Janet Dawson is represented in all major public collections in Australia.