She was a vital and formative force in the art world for more than 40 years, bringing some of Britain’s greatest modern artists to global attention.
Importantly, Gillian forged a path for women working in the art world both through her work with female artists and as a formidable gallerist, dealer, curator and adviser for some of the world’s most valuable collections.
She was renowned for her astute ability to broker a deal and her willingness to take a risk on new talent.
She opened her eponymous gallery in 1982 in Camden Town, a bustling, vibrant and bohemian community of artists, writers and actors where she lived with her husband, the British actor Neville Jason, and their two children.
The gallery was a lively hub, where many then-unknown artists were given a platform to exhibit their work. Gillian was a staunch supporter of her artists and had a keen eye for talent, representing and dealing in the early work of Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, Ivon Hitchens, Adrian Berg, Bryan Wynter, Leonard McComb and John Virtue.
She developed a close friendship with Terry Frost who gifted her a handwritten Sonnet by Shakespeare adorned with his designs and which remains in her collection today.
In recent years Gillian renewed her life-long passion for art by British female artists, building an important private collection and championing the work of Eileen Agar, Tess Jaray, Marlow Moss, Bridget Riley, Louise Bourgeois, Jessica Dismorr, Frances Hodgkins and Elisabeth Frink.
Born in 1941, Gillian was also a talented ballerina and opera singer. She joined The Royal Ballet when she was just 15 after winning a prestigious scholarship.
She performed in numerous productions with the company for several years. In 1957 she met her husband Neville while both were performing in A Midsummer’s Night Dream at The Old Vic. Gillian retired from ballet in 1966 and then pursued her passion for singing, training with The Opera Centre in London.
Gillian and Neville were married for 54 years and had two children, Elli and Alex. In 1976 Gillian joined Campbell & Franks in New Cavendish Street before moving to Camden and opening the doors of Gillian Jason Gallery.
Gillian gradually retired from the art world in 2015 due to illness, retreating to Norfolk.
Today her legacy for nurturing and supporting female artists continues under the stewardship of Elli and granddaughter Millie, who have brought new energy to the gallery’s focus on female talent.
Witty and caring
Millie, now co-director of the Gillian Jason Gallery, said: “As a grandmother, Gillian was always light-hearted, witty and caring. Completely full of life, her good humour, singing and dancing was always infectious.
“Now co-directing my grandmother’s gallery, there isn’t a person that I speak to in the industry who hasn’t done business with Gillian or had a wonderful memory of their time with her. In the art world, Gillian was both inspiring and formidable. As a pioneering female art dealer, I am proud to be carrying on her legacy.”
Elli (Jason-Foster), fellow co-director, added: “Gillian was charming, witty and fun. Her presence was so undeniable that one could not help but be carried along with her enthusiasm. Throughout her life, Gillian had nerves of steel and was able to take risks, learn and grow in an impressive way.”
Gillian is also survived by five grandchildren Millie, Clara, Max, Oscar and Thalia.
The family has announced a memorial service will be held in her honour for family and friends later in the year.