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Self portrait
, c. 1952

by 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