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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Self portrait, c. 1952

Janet Dawson

oil on cardboard (frame: 57.0 cm x 47.5 cm, support: 45.7 cm x 35.5 cm)

Janet Dawson (b. 1935), painter, printer, teacher and stage designer, was born in Sydney and spent the first six years of her life in the rural New South Wales town of Forbes. Dawson’s mother, who had studied art with Will Ashton, recognised her daughter’s talent early and was advised by Ashton to encourage it. She had her first formal lessons following her family’s relocation to Melbourne in the early 1940s, attending the private art school run by artist and illustrator Harold Septimus Power. In 1951, aged sixteen, she enrolled at the National Gallery School and attended night classes with Sir William Dargie. In 1956, she won a National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship and went to London, where she enrolled at the Slade School and the Central School to study painting, etching and lithography. She travelled in Italy and worked as a proof printer in Paris before returning to Melbourne in 1961. She held her first solo exhibition the same year and in 1963 set up an art school and workshop, where she printed the work of artists such as Albert Tucker, Charles Blackman and Russell Drysdale. After several years in Sydney, Dawson moved to live in the bush near Binalong, New South Wales, in the early 1970s. In 1978, she founded The Bugle Press with her husband, the late writer, actor and columnist Michael Boddy. Her work is represented in all major public collections in Australia, and has been the subject of exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria (1979), the National Gallery of Australia (1996) and a 2006 touring exhibition, Janet Dawson survey. Though known for her contribution to abstract art in Australia, Dawson has always practised portraiture and won the Archibald Prize in 1973 with a portrait of her husband. This self portrait was painted during one of William Dargie’s evening classes at the National Gallery of Victoria School.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2000

Accession number: 2000.1

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Janet Dawson (age 17 in 1952)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Brown form with stripes, 1961
Brown form with stripes, 1961
Brown form with stripes, 1961
Brown form with stripes, 1961

Figurative foundation

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2010

Joanna Gilmour explores the life and art of the Australian artist Janet Dawson.

Portrait of Professor Graeme Clark, 2000 Peter Wegner
Portrait of Professor Graeme Clark, 2000 Peter Wegner
Portrait of Professor Graeme Clark, 2000 Peter Wegner
Portrait of Professor Graeme Clark, 2000 Peter Wegner

Portraits for Posterity

Previous exhibition, 2006

Drawn from some of the many donations made to the Gallery's collection, the exhibition Portraits for Posterity pays homage both to the remarkable (and varied) group of Australians who are portrayed in the portraits and the generosity of the many donors who have presented them to the Gallery.

Self portrait with glove, 1939 Herbert Badham
Self portrait with glove, 1939 Herbert Badham
Self portrait with glove, 1939 Herbert Badham
Self portrait with glove, 1939 Herbert Badham

To Look Within

Self Portraits in Australia

Previous exhibition, 2004

This exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of self-portraits in Australia, from the colonial period to the present

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.