Born 1942 in Kent, England
Widely recognized as a leading designer for Canadian ballet, theatre and opera, today Susan Benson continues to pursue her equally established role as a painter. Born in Kent, England, Benson was educated at the West of England College of Art in Bristol and immigrated to Canada in 1966.
In Canada, Benson began as a freelance designer before launching a decades-long career designing for the Stratford Festival. Throughout her years as a designer, she also developed as a painter, honing her skills during multiple residencies at The Banff Centre. Simultaneously she designed sets and costumes for productions at the Canadian Opera Company, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, the New York City Opera and The National Ballet of Canada, among others in Canada and abroad.
For The National Ballet of Canada, Benson designed costumes for L’île Inconnue, as well as sets and costumes for The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet. Critics have noted Benson’s focused attention to detail and historical accuracy, both of which are apparent in these productions. For example, Benson cited research on Italian frescoes as inspiration for the warm and earthy colour palette in The Taming of the Shrew. The liveliness of this Shakespearean comedy emerges in vibrant golden yellows, oranges and reds in the dancers’ costumes, complemented by bright blues and turquoises.
Today Benson is recognized as one of Canada’s foremost contemporary artists. Her paintings and drawings feature portraits, figures and landscapes, many revealing the natural influence of her current home in British Columbia. Benson’s work has been featured in exhibitions and galleries around the world.
View the exhibit
L’Île Inconnue (1983)
The Taming of the Shrew (1992)
Romeo and Juliet (1995)
Top image credit: The National Ballet of Canada tutus on display. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.