Mary Morton Allport

Painter, miniaturist, etcher, engraver, lithographer and diarist, was born in Birmingham, England, on 17 May 1806, daughter of William Chapman, landlord of the Castle Hotel, and Ann Floyd, née Evett. She went to the school conducted by Hannah, Mrs William Allport, at Cedar Court, Aldridge, Staffordshire. The school had a strong artistic bias and the influence of John Glover , once drawing master there, continued in the teaching of Mrs Allport’s elder children, Henry Curzon and Mary Anne. The latter, and perhaps the former also, taught Mary Morton Chapman, who appears to have stayed on at Cedar Court as a pupil teacher after completing her schooling. She married Joseph, the Allports’ youngest son, on 20 December 1826. They lived for several years at West Bromwich, where Joseph practised as a solicitor.

The Allports sailed in the Platina for Van Diemen’s Land in July 1831, accompanied by four partners, who were connected either by marriage or long-standing friendship. They reached Hobart Town on 11 December. At Black Brush in the Brighton district, the Allports and their partners lived in what were no more than large dog kennels. Not only did Mary survive, she continued to paint in these primitive conditions. As well as making informal sketches of her surroundings, she inserted an advertisement in the Hobart Town Courier on 13 July 1832 announcing that she was prepared to paint miniatures on commission. She seems to have been the first woman in the Australian colonies to embark on such an enterprise.

Joseph was not successful as a farmer. After the partnership was dissolved on 1 September 1832, he resumed practising law, accepting a partnership with G.W. Cartwright. On 4 October the Allports moved to Hobart Town. There, in Mrs Laughton’s furnished rooms in Macquarie Street, Mary first recorded that she was painting Australian wildflowers. Later they moved to a cottage (Fairy Knowe) in upper Liverpool Street, which they purchased in March 1834. Here Mary continued to paint landscapes, flowers, natural history studies and portrait miniatures, although her commissions for the last can never have brought her more than pin money. She also began to make prints during this period. Rathmore. My First Etching M.M.A. survives, as well as a hand-coloured engraving on copper of local flowers used as a frontispiece to Elliston’s Hobart Town Almanack for 1838 .

The Allports moved to Aldridge Lodge in Elboden Street in August 1839 and at about this time Mary attempted lithography. An early example appeared in the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science in 1841. This was the first issue of the journal of the Tasmanian Society, to which she had been admitted as a member in October of the same year – first as a corresponding but later as a resident member. Other Tasmanian lithographs include the lively Opossum Mouse from Grass Tree Hill Tasmania Drawn from Nature and on Stone by M.M. Allport and Comet of March 1843 Seen from Aldridge Lodge, V.D. Land . The latter was published in the second volume of the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science , then reproduced in the Illustrated London News of 3 February 1844. No oil paintings survive, but it is known that she also worked in this medium, while her etchings, engravings and lithographs were the first to have been made by a woman in the Australian colonies.

Mary Morton Allport died at Aldridge Lodge on 10 June 1895 after a short illness, survived by two of her eight (?) children. She was buried in the family vault at Queenborough Cemetery.