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 Joseph Francis Plaskett  (1918 - )

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Lived/Active: British Columbia / England/France/Canada      Known for: floral, interior, landscape and figure painting

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Ad Code: 3
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from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Joseph Plaskett hasn’t lived in Canada for over half a century, yet he is considered one of the country’s most prominent painters.  His works are avidly collected on the Canadian primary and secondary markets.  He has been granted one of the nation’s highest honors – Officer of the Order of Canada.  And, at 92, he is still a prolific artist.  Currently (May 2010), there are impressive exhibitions of his 2009 works running simultaneously at galleries in Vancouver, B.C. and Toronto, Ontario (1).  

He was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, a municipality in the greater Vancouver area.  In 1957 he left for Paris, France, where he lived until moving to Suffolk, England, his current home, in 2001.  In the decade before 1957, he lived in several locations connected with his post graduate art education and a brief career teaching outside the Vancouver area.  Those will be discussed below.

His mediums are primarily oil on canvas and pastel on paper.  His subjects have almost always been interiors, still life, figures, portraits, self-portraits, landscapes and urban scenes. Their locations are his home, the cities he’s lived in and from his extensive travels.  His primary styles are Realism* and Fauvism*, although, early in his career he experimented with Impressionism*, Expressionism*, Abstraction* and Surrealism*.  AskART has some very good illustrations of his typical work.

Quote: "I cannot paint from either memory or imagination.  I must have a piece of the external world in front of me, then I just start to draw as spontaneously as possible." – Joe Plaskett.

His education includes a Bachelor of Arts degree, in history, from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver (1939) and a diploma from the Teachers College, also at UBC (1939). His formal art education includes the Vancouver School of Art (2) (nights 1940 – 1942) under Charles Scott (3), Fred  Amess (1909 – 1970),  Jack Shadbolt and B.C. Binning; the Banff School of Fine Arts (summer 1945) under A.Y. Jackson; the San Francisco School of Fine Art (1946 – 1947) under William Gaw, David Park, Clay Spohn and Clyfford Still; New York and Provincetown (summers 1947 – 1949) under Hans Hofmann; Paris (1949 – 1950) under Fernand Leger and Jean Lombard; the Slade School London, England (1951); and Paris (1953) at Atelier 17* to study etching and engraving under Stanley William Hayter. Lawren S. Harris and Jock MacDonald were also important mentors in Vancouver in the 1940s.

His career as an educator began with teaching high school in the Vancouver area (1940 – 1946) and includes subsequent teaching posts as Principal of the Winnipeg Art School (1947 – 1949), where Takao Tanabe was a student; the Banff School of Fine Arts (summer 1949 and in the 1970s); the Vancouver School of Art (nights 1952 – 1953 and 1956); the Extension Department of the University of British Columbia (1955); and at Emma Lake* in Saskatchewan (1956).

His travels include France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia and Italy in 1950; and the British Isles, Holland, Belgium, Germany and Italy in 1951.  Since then he has also visited Russia, Uzbekistan, Mexico, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Majorca and British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte Islands.

He became a member of the B.C. Society of Artists (1945), the Federation of Canadian Artists (c.1948) and an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (1978). (4)

In addition to exhibiting with the above artist groups, Plaskett’s works have also been featured in several notable exhibitions of Canadian art, including the Brussels World´s Fair, Belgium (1958); Musee Galliera, Paris (1963) (5); “Emma Lake Workshops 1955 – 1973”, Mackenzie Art Gallery (1973); “Canadian Art in Britain”, Canada House, London (1982); “Vancouver Art and Artists, 1931 – 1983”, Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (1983); “The Canadian Landscape”, Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris (1984); “Towards the Group of Seven and Beyond”, Kamloops Art Gallery, B.C. (1998); “Defining the Portrait”, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal (2001); and “Modern Life: Art and Design in British Columbia, 1945 – 1960”, Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (2004). (6)

Most of Plaskett’s solo exhibitions have been at private galleries. His major public venue solos, with few exceptions, occurred early in his career.  They include the Vancouver Art Gallery on three occasions – 1945, 1951 and 1955; the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1952); the University of British Columbia (1971); the Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris (1977); the Art Gallery of the South Okanagan, Penticton, B.C. (1996); and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (1996).

Through the years, venues for his private gallery shows have included the New Design Gallery, Vancouver; the Picture Loan Society*, Toronto; Jerrold Morris Gallery, Toronto; Robertson Galleries, Ottawa; Wallack Gallery, Ottawa; Waddington Gallery, Montreal; and  Walter Klinkhoff Gallery, Montreal.  His current shows are at Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver and Toronto; he has been exhibiting with them since 1973.

As noted above his paintings are among the most avidly collected in Canada. They are also in numerous public collections.  According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* there are 107 Plaskett works in museums across Canada. They include the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), the Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario); the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Ottawa Art Gallery (Ontario), the Museum of Quebec (Quebec City), the Mackenzie Art Gallery, Museum London (Ontario), the Confederation Centre Art Gallery & Museum (Charlottetown, P.E.I.), the Glenbow Museum (Calgary, Alberta), the Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, N.B.), the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies (Banff, Alberta), the Vancouver Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).

His honors and awards include one of Canada’s highest honors, appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada (OC) in 2001; the first Emily Carr scholarship ($1,000) to study abroad in 1946; and a Canada Council fellowship in 1967.

In 2004, he created the Joseph Plaskett Foundation and the $25,000 Joe Plaskett Foundation Award, one of the largest visual-arts awards in Canada.  The annual prize is eligible to students from across Canada who are studying for their master of fine arts, or who have attained an MFA that year; it is designed to support a one-year residence in Europe. Most notable about the award – is that it is only available to painters. (7)


(1) While visiting the Vancouver show the author noted most of the works in the exhibition were large canvases dated 2009. The door was open into what appeared to be the stockroom where visitors were invited to see the overflow of Plaskett works from the main gallery.

(2) Since 2008, the Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

(3) All artists, teachers, students, influences and associates mentioned in this biography and its footnotes, except those with bracketed birth and death dates after their names, have their own pages in AskART.

(4) Due to a severe attack of influenza shortly after he was drafted and teacher deferments he did not serve in World War II. Source: “A Speaking Likeness” Joseph Plaskett’s 1999 autobiography (see AskART book references).

(5) With York Wilson, Alfred Pellan, Jean-Paul Lemieux and Jean McEwen (December 1963 – January 1964).

(6) The primary sources for exhibition details are the catalogues in the archives of the Art Gallery of Ontario (and online) and “A Speaking Likeness” (1999), by Joseph Plaskett (see AskART book references).

(7) Source: The Joseph Plaskett Foundation –

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke





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