The Nancy Sever Gallery is delighted to present an exhibition of works by one of the most accomplished artists of the region.

Janet Dawson was born in 1935 and studied at the National Gallery School in Melbourne from 1952 until 1956 when she was awarded a travelling scholarship to London, where she studied at the Slade School. She then went to Italy and later to Paris where she worked as a proof printer at the Atelier Patris and also made her own lithographs. In 1960 she returned to Australia and worked and exhibited at Gallery A in Melbourne, where she ran the print shop and gave art classes.

She participated in an exhibition of contemporary Australian painting in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 1966.  She was one of the pioneers of colourfield painting and was one of only three women artists included in the “Field” exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1968.  In 1973 she won the Archibald Prize with a portrait of her husband, Michael Boddy. She moved to Binalong in rural New South Wales in 1974 and became interested in the landscape with its animals, native flora and changing seasons. This brought about a change in her art practice, with a focus on still life and the minutiae of her bucolic surroundings.  “I don’t pose my still lifes as many do.” Janet explains. “They arrive on the table, things are cleared, there’s a bit of rearrangement. Generally things already there are selected to take part and the work starts”.

Major survey exhibitions have been held at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1979 and the National Gallery of Australia in 1996.  In 2006-7 a Touring Survey exhibition was shown at Bathurst Regional Gallery; SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney; Drill Hall Gallery, Canberra; Queensland University Art Museum, Brisbane; Tasmanian Art Gallery, Hobart and Mornington Peninsula Art Gallery, Victoria. In 2012 a survey exhibition of her work was curated by the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery. She has been exhibiting regularly for the last twenty years at Stella Downer Fine Art, Sydney. Her work is held in major private, corporate and institutional national and international art collections. 

The exhibition opened on Saturday 1 August  and closed on 30 August 2015


Works in the exhibition, including currently available works:

(for details of the works, please hold cursor over the image)

Views of the exhibition:


Artist Profile. Interview by Christine France


1935    Born in Sydney and spent her early childhood in the rural town of Forbes, NSW

1941    Family moved to Melbourne.

1946    Studied privately with H. Septimus Power in Melbourne.

1951    Enrolled at the National Gallery School in Melbourne.

1956    Awarded the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship.

1956    Travelled to London to study lithography at the Slade School of Fine Art. 

1959    Won the Boise Scholarship for lithography and travelled to Europe, settling in Paris and working at the lithographic printing                     workshop, Atelier Patris.

1960    Returned to Sydney. 

1961    Exhibited at Gallery A, Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Worked at Gallery A and was involved in all aspects of its operation, from                     running the print shop to conducting art classes.

1964    Moved to Sydney to concentrate on painting. 

1968    Exhibited in the Field exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Married actor and playwright Michael Boddy. 

1969    Worked as an assistant at the Australian Museum and became involved in scientific drawing, illustrations, exhibition and display             case design. Made props and sets for a number of theatre productions.

1973    Won the Archibald Prize

1974    Moved to Binalong, NSW. 

1981    Moved to Canberra to help establish Theatre ACT where she worked as a production designer and continued her artistic                         practice.

1985    Returned to live permanently in Binalong.

1994    Works on the Red Cabbage series, acquired by the National Gallery of Australia. 

2006    Janet Dawson Survey Exhibition opens at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery and tours nationally in 2007

2008   Janet Dawson -  Stella Downer Fine Art, Sydney

2010    Janet Dawson - Stella Downer fine Art, Sydney

2012    Janet Dawson- A Personal view, Goulburn Regional Art Gallery.

2013    Janet Dawson - Stella Downer Fine Art, Sydney

Extracts of Reviews and Writings.

I don’t pose my still lifes as many do. They arrive on the table, things are cleared, there’s a bit of rearrangement, generally things already there are selected to take part and the work starts.

Janet Dawson.

Australia is known throughout the world for its unique landscape, intense light and colour. Many artists since European settlement have been attracted to these aspects of the Australian bush and have tried to capture it on canvas. Janet Dawson is no exception. The move to Binalong in rural New South Wales (1974) brought about a shift in Dawson’s subject matter. She became absorbed in her immediate landscape and embraced the change through her art practice. Many works from this period relate directly to Dawson’s interest in the landscape including changing seasons, organically grown produce, shifting skyscapes, animals and native flora. “Nothing should be forbidden when it comes to drawing, everything and anything is a subject. The advice given to me as a young girl was lots of paper, lots of pencils, no rubbers, no rulers and to keep drawing. Everyday I practice, everyday I draw”.

Janet Dawson. Artist interview. October 2006 with Emma Smith, Education and Public Programs Manager, Bathurst Regional Art Gallery.


Throughout history many artists have used their friends, family and themselves as a subject to paint and draw. Janet Dawson is no exception. At the age of 18 Dawson completed Self Portrait, oil on canvas. It was painted at night in her evening art class and show her artist’s work shirt over her neat office day-clothes. It depicts a very serious Dawson gazing directly at the viewer. Twenty years later, Dawson won the Archibald Prize with the painting Michael Boddy reading. She became the third woman in the history of the event to win the Archibald Prize. At the time, critics and the press proclaimed that the portrait had won convincingly. Since her student days Dawson has always painted friends and family. To this day Dawson still invites people to come and model for her once a week in her studio. I love drawing and painting people, I never get bored. Many of my friends come and model for me. I think they like relaxing while I work away.

Janet Dawson. Artist interview, October 2006, with Emma Smith, Education and Public Programs Manager, Bathurst Regional Art Gallery.


Janet Dawson was born in Sydney and moved with her family to Melbourne at the age of six. As a child she attended Saturday drawing classes run by J Septimus Power and in 1952 enrolled at the National Gallery School, Melbourne to study under William Dargie and Alan Sumner. She also attended night classes in lithography at Swinburne Technical College with Robert Grieve. In 1956 she won the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship and left for London to study painting and lithography under Ceri Richards at the Slade School, and etching under Anthony Gross at the Central School. She won first prize for lithography at the Slade in 1959 and with the scholarship money travelled to Italy. In 1960 she worked as a proof printer in Paris at the Atelier Patris, where she also made her own lithographs. She returned to Melbourne in 1961 before moving to NSW five years later. While in Melbourne she established and ran an art school and lithographic workshop at Gallery A, where she printed for Russell Drysdale, Albert Tucker, Donald Friend, Charles Blackman and others, and portfolios for the National Gallery Society of Victoria, assisted by Robin Wallace-Crabbe. She also made her own stencil prints. She moved the Gallery A print workshop to Mary Place at Paddington, Sydney in 1966 where she printed work for Blackman and Drysdale. The studio was taken over by her assistant Robert Brown, until it closed in 1969. Janet Dawson now lives and works in rural Binalong near Canberra.

"Printing was a way of learning formal values ... (it) is excellent training for an artist - matching colour accurately, controlling tone, economy of line - analysing an image in various stages. To make a print one must build up an image in separate states and learn to analyse those states and what is required for the next state. So one pulls it apart and reassembles it, and things of no value have to be ditched along the way... the same with colour - so a good painting or print spirals from the bottom layer to the top layer".

Margaret Plant, 'Melbourne printmakers', Art Bulletin of Victoria 1973-74, pp 30-31

Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, 'Australian prints from the Gallery's collection', AGNSW, 1998


JANET DAWSON. 2-27 July 2013

Reflecting the mutability of nature, Janet Dawson captures light and tone with a sure and subtle hand. Through landscape and still life, Dawson traces life’s seasons of inevitable ebb and flux, seeing with keen eyes the beauty throughout. A superb tonalist and consummate draughtsman, Janet Dawson is one of Australia’s most senior artists. After moving in 1973 to the small property named Scribble Rock near Binalong, her work became, as Andrew Sayers states, “engaged with the qualities of the natural world: not only the landscape, but the sheen of birds’ feathers, the shapes of growing things, the endless pictorial possibilities of vegetables tended in the garden”. Dawson’s vegetables and fruit show all the marks of a natural life, from bruising, bulges and patches of decay to unruly roots and new sprouts. Her landscapes express an intimacy with the bush in its many moods.

Dawson, always observing and enquiring, captures the stagnation and shadows that pool around tree roots and river rocks. With the same sensitivity, she renders nature in motion, thick rain on the dam or wind in the trees. These scenes are illuminated by reflected light, off the chalky surface of a full moon, glassy water or sunrise diffused by clouds. Jenny Bell describes Dawson’s paintings as seeming “to represent the moment caught, the multiple perspective, the transitional glimpse of something about to become something else”. Dawson has had a distinguished career as an abstract and figurative painter and printmaker.

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, she had been in the forefront of Australian abstractions, taking part in the influential 1968 Field exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. Whatever her subject matter, her concerns with painting are unchanged from her days of abstraction. She has a fascination for the physical reality of the natural world. Her drawings, pastels and oils show an extraordinary sense for structure and tone. Janet Dawson’s major exhibitions include surveys at the National Gallery of Australia (1996), the National Portrait Gallery (2002) and a nationally touring exhibition curated by Christine France and initiated by the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (2006).

Dawson’s work is held in all major national collections including the National Gallery of Australia, all state galleries and many regional galleries. Major awards include winning the Archibald Prize as well as the Trustees Purchase Prize in 1973 and the Georges Invitation Prize in 1982.