Chapman was a painter, silk-screen printer, potter and art teacher. She was also known as Dora Cant, A resident of South Australia, New South Wales, and England, she was concerned with changing society through social realist art.
She was born at Mount Barker, South Australia and won a scholarship to the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts (1928–1932) and studied in 1936–41 under Marie Tuck, Dorrit Black, Leslie Wilkie, Louis McCubbin and Ivor Hele. S
Chapman was exhibiting from 1935 and the exhibited with the Royal South Australian Society of Arts. In 1940 Chapman was awarded the RSASA’s Alex Melrose Prize which was to “stimulate figurative painting”. Judged by Louis McCubbin and Hans Heysen, Chapman won with a “hard but striking self-portrait”. In 1941 she won the RSASA Portrait Prize. The following year she joined the army, achieved the rank of Sergeant, lecturing in education until 1945 as well as establishing a Fine Art Print Library and organising an art exhibition of work by army personnel.
After the war Chapman and the Sydney artist James Cant co-founded the Studio of Realist Art (SORA) in Sydney; she became its secretary, gave drawing lessons and established a library at SORA’s premises and organised and participated in SORA exhibitions. During this time her subjects were mainly semi-abstract landscapes, still-lifes and occasional portraits She and Cant married in 1945.
In 1950 they went to London and remained there for five years, also visiting France and Italy. They returned to Sydney, but a year later moved permanently to Adelaide. Chapman lectured at the SA School of Art from 1958 to 1969. She was also an art critic for the Adelaide Advertiser during these years. In 1961 she was awarded the Melrose Prize for portraiture. She became interested in 1969 in representing aspects of human character, rather than individuals, and produced a series of silkscreens in the form of stylised, female portrait heads, some named after Australian native plants.
Dora Chapman died in Adelaide on 15 May 1995.
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