Dora Chapman (1911-1995) was a celebrated painter, printmaker, art teacher and, like her husband James Cant, a key figure in Australian art. She displayed an early artistic talent which saw her awarded a scholarship to attend the School of Arts and Craft in Adelaide, excelling in the areas of drawing, painting, modelling and needlework. Following graduation, she began to move away from ‘naturalism and superficial portraiture’, inspired by the impressionist and cubist methodologies of artists such as Cezanne, Degas and Picasso, she began to experiment with shapes, angles and application.
Much of Chapman’s life was dominated by her husband’s artistic pursuits, and she took on the role of ‘bread winner’ while maintaining her art practice on the side. Cant and Chapman were members of the Australian Communist Party and founding members of SORA (Studio of Realist Art) from 1945 to 1949 before they relocated to London. In 1955 the couple returned to Australia and settled briefly in Sydney before permanently moving to Adelaide where Chapman was offered a teaching position at the South Australian School of Art. She taught there until her retirement in 1969.
Flinders University Museum of Art’s small selection of works highlights Chapman’s achievement after her retirement, a period during which she was also caring for Cant who had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Chapman worked fastidiously at her own practice, exploring new mediums such as screenprinting, ceramics and photography, while simultaneously assisting her husband to make art.
Exhibitions and Public Programs Manager, Flinders University Museum of Art
Adelaide, Australia, 2021
© Flinders University Museum of Art