Jennifer Dickson Biography
Jennifer Dickson is one of Canada’s most distinguished photographic artists.
Jennifer Dickson had already established an international reputation as an artist, before emigrating to Canada in 1969. Born in the Republic of South Africa in 1936, she studied at Goldsmiths' College School of Art (University of London, England) from 1954-1959; and from 1960-1965 was an Associate of the prestigious graphic workshop, Atelier 17 in Paris, studying under the late S.W. Hayter. She has lived and worked in England, France, Jamaica and the United States. In 1974, she became a Canadian Citizen and now resides in Ottawa, Canada.
Since 1962, Jennifer Dickson has had more than 60 one-person exhibitions in six countries and has participated in more than 400 group exhibitions. She has been a guest lecturer at nine US Universities, and she has been invited to speak across Canada at Canadian art schools and universities.
Her awards include the Prix de Jeunes Artistes pour Gravure, from the 1963 Biennale de Paris, and a Special Purchase Award from the World Print Competition (San Francisco Museum of Art, 1974). In 1980, she was awarded the Biennale Prize of the 5th Norwegian International Print Biennale. She has represented Canada in the Internationale Buchkunst-Austellung Leipzig on several occasions since 1977. In 1988, her book, The Hospital for Wounded Angels, was chosen by the Association of Canadian Publishers as the Canadian book for presentation at the London Book Fair.
In 1976, Jennifer Dickson was elected a Royal Academician (RA) by the The Royal Academy of Arts, in London, England, the only Canadian in the 200-year history of this prestigious institution to have been so honored. She is, in addition, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (London, England). In 1988, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Alberta, Edmonton, for her contribution to Canadian culture.
The Still Photography Division of the National Film Board supported and circulated two major exhibitions of Jennifer Dickson's photo-based imagery: "The Secret Garden" (1975) and "The Earthly Paradise" (1980). The PARADISE exhibition was shown in 1981 at the Centre Culturel Canadien in Paris.
Jennifer Dickson's photographs of Versailles are reproduced in a book of poems by Jane Urquart entitled, The Little Flowers of Madame de Montespan (Porcupine's Quill, Inc., 1984). Her photographs were used as cover images on The Revels by Robert Billings (Porcupine's Quill, Inc., 1987) and The Fountains of Neptune by Rikki du Cornet (McClelland & Stewart, 1989).
Jennifer Dickson's exhibition, The Last Silence, organized by the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (an affiliate of the National Gallery of Canada) toured the Palazzo Te in Mantua, Italy and the Canadian Cultural Centre in Rome in 1993. The Last Silence exhibit opened at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography in Ottawa in November 1993.
Her earlier work – The Secret Garden (1976); Three Mirrors to Narcissus (1979) – challenged assumptions about gender and sexual roles in Western society. During the 1980s and 1990s she traveled extensively in England, France, and Italy, focusing on the structure and symbolism of historic gardens. Beauty and its desecration became obsessions, culminating in The Last Silence – Pavene for a Dying World (1993-1997). This exhibition was shown in 15 venues, including Rome and Mantua, before becoming part of the permanent collection of the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (CMCP), now part of the National Gallery of Canada.
Jennifer Dickson has photographed extensively in Turkey. A solo exhibition – Sanctuary: A Landscape of the Mind – ran from September 2005 to January 2006 at The Royal Academy of Arts in London, England. For the first time it was possible to see her contemporary response to the complex cultural layers of Classical, Byzantine, and Ottoman history of Turkey. The exhibited works have now become part of the holdings of the Library and Collections of The Royal Academy of Arts.
Jennifer Dickson’s portfolio, The Gods, deals with the love affair of the Roman emperor Hadrian and a beautiful young Bithynian, Antinous. This sequence of images was purchased in 2006 for the permanent collection of the CMCP.
In April 2002, the National Archives of Canada established the Jennifer Dickson Fonds. The collection has been deemed to have national significance and holds a comprehensive range of Jennifer Dickson’s original photographic material.
Jennifer Dickson was named to the Order of Canada (CM) in 1995. She was awarded an honorary doctorate (LLD) in 1988 by the University of Alberta, Edmonton. She was elected to The Royal Academy of Arts, London, England in 1970 (RA). In 2002 she was given the Victor Tolgesy award by the Council for the Arts, Ottawa, for cultural leadership.
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