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Australian art

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(Ruined church, Villers-Bretonneux)

circa 1919


Evelyn Chapman


25 Oct 1888 - 18 Jul 1961


Evelyn Chapman trained in Sydney under the Italian-born artist Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo, together with fellow students Grace Cossington Smith and Norah Simpson. She moved to Europe with her family in 1911 and attended the Académie Julian in Paris, gaining a classical training in life drawing. When war broke out in 1914, the family moved to London and Chapman spent time in St Ives, Cornwell, a thriving cosmopolitan colony for artists from around the world. She began painting vivid works in tempera and oil, which evidence her assimilation of French post-impressionist techniques.

In early 1919, Chapman accompanied her father, a member of the New Zealand War Graves Commission, to France, visiting the area near Villers-Bretonneux where many Australian and New Zealand soldiers had lost their lives. Struck by the destruction she witnessed in the villages and cities, Chapman set up her easel and began to paint the ruined buildings and landscape, annihilated by years of continued bombardment.

In a photograph taken of Chapman at Villers-Bretonneux in 1919, we see the artist seated amid the ruins of the church depicted in this unfinished painting. On her easel is a view of the landscape before her - a second variation now in the Australian War Memorial collection - and on her lap rests a wooden paint box, which now resides in the Gallery's artists' materials archvies.


Place where the work was made

Villers-Bretonneux Somme France


circa 1919

Media category


Materials used

oil? on thick grey card


41.3 x 56.3 cm board

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Bequest of Pamela Thalben-Ball 2015


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Evelyn Chapman

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Anne Gérard-Austin, Look, 'Remembering Evelyn Chapman: a new and unexpected bequest', pg. 14-15, Sydney, Apr 2015, 14, 15. pg. 14 features a photograph of the artist painting 'Ruined church, Villers-Bretonneux'