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Joseph Plaskett was born in New Westminster, BC in 1918. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1939 with first class honours in History. Upon completion of teachers’ college at UBC, he taught in private and public schools. He studied art at the Vancouver School of Art under Ustinov, Amess, Shadbolt and Binning, as well as under A.Y. Jackson at the Banff School of Fine Art.
After several exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery in the early forties, he received friendship and encouragement from Jock MacDonald and Lawren Harris. Nominated by Lawren Harris, he won the first Emily Carr Scholarship in 1946. The award changed his life, enabling him to study, first at the California School of Fine Art in San Francisco and then with Hans Hofmann in New York and Provincetown.
In 1947 Plaskett was appointed Principal of the Winnipeg Art School, succeeding L.L. Fitzgerald. Summers were spent with further studies in New York City and Provincetown under the noted abstract painter Hans Hoffman. He taught for two years, by which time the lure of Europe became irresistible.
In 1949, after visiting London , Plaskett found the ideal setting for his artistic development in Paris. He subsequently moved there, where he studied with, among others, Fernand Lèger, Jean Lombard, and Marzelle and traveled throughout Europe, drawing, using mostly pastels.
In 1951 he moved to London, England to study art at the Slade School with a bursary awarded by the British Arts Council. He returned to Canada for exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery and the University of British Columbia Art Gallery, as well as in Winnipeg and Toronto. In 1953 a Canada Council Overseas Scholarship assisted him to return to Paris and study etching and engraving with Stanley Hayter.
After twice returning to Canada to teach, it was in 1957 that he wasable to make Paris his home for the next half century. Since 2001, he has lived in Suffolk , England. Despite living abroad for over fifty years, he is staunchly Canadian. Almost annually he has returned to his homeland and held exhibitions across the country. A legendary host and supporter of Canadian artists working in Europe, he was considered an unofficial Ambassador in Paris.
The artist created the Joseph Plaskett Foundation in 2005, designed to support a mature Canadian student to travel and/or study art in Europe for one year. When the formation of the foundation was announced in 2005, Plaskett said,