The Dispute

James Montgomery Cant

The Dispute by James Montgomery Cant


James Montgomery Cant
The Dispute
c. 1951
oil on canvas
91 x 71 cm

signed upper right: CANT

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The Estate of James Cant and Dora Chapman, 1995
Art Gallery of South Australia through Small and Whitfield, 1999 as Girls Fighting
private collection, Adelaide
Australian & International Paintings, Elder Fine Art, Adelaide, October 2007, lot 280 as Girls Being Girls
private collection, Sydney


The Coffee House, London, 22 Feb - 22 March 1953, cat. no. 8

Further Information

Cant’s The Dispute of 1952 is a significant work from an important period in the artist’s mature phase. It was created during his second and longest visit to London in the years 1949 to 1955. Cant was the sole subject of a retrospective exhibition at The Art Gallery of South Australia in 1984, curated by Ron Radford, later to become the Director of The National Gallery of Australia.

[In] Cant’s The Dispute, two young girls tug at each other and argue over the possession of a small doll. They are set behind a tall wall and share this hemmed-in space with a green plant or sapling – obviously a pictorial synonym for the girls’ budding growth. The painting contains hints of underlying tension (not altogether unlike some of John Perceval and Arthur Boyd’s works of the time) and it stands as one of the finest of Cant’s works of his similarly-themed Harringay period: Two Girls of 1951; Girl with a Ball of 1952, At the Corner of Cork Street of 1951, Child with a Doll of 1952 and Head of a Girl of the same year.


This is an edited extract from the catalogue essay by Ken Wach, 2017.

© James Montgomery Cant/Licensed by Viscopy 2017