David Friedrich Dallwitz was born at Freeling, South Australia, on 25 October 1914, the son of clerk Joseph Ernst Dallwitz and his wife Clara Magdalena Dallwitz (née Rohde). Dallwitz first studied music (the violin) as a youth and after he moved with his family to Adelaide in 1930 he began playing jazz on piano, signalling the beginning of an almost continuous involvement with this musical form. From 1933 to 1935 he studied at the South Australian School of Art, simultaneously attending the North Adelaide School of Fine Art. During this time he met Joan Rowe, sharing with her a passion for art, music and dancing. They were married on 14 April 1938.
In the late 1930s Dallwitz began participating with other artists in painting excursions to the coast south of Adelaide. His painting Normanville Landscape is typical of this period, during which he began to explore colour and form. He also began a lifetime of teaching, while at the same time continuing to study art at night classes and maintaining his interest in music, particularly jazz. The home that he and his wife established at Seacliff became known as ‘The Jazz House’ and was the venue for many musical and artistic evenings.
In 1940 Dallwitz became an associate member of the Royal South Australian Society of Arts and after the establishment of a breakaway group interested in modern art forms he became the founding chairman of the Contemporary Art Society of South Australia in 1942. He formed his first jazz band, the Southern Jazz Group, in 1945 and over the next few years recorded for the Memphis label in Adelaide and for the Parlophone, Willco and Rodeo labels in Sydney.
In 1954 he took the first of eleven overseas trips, and visited cathedrals, art museums and theatres. He also played with various English jazz groups in London but this was the beginning of a seventeen-year period during which he virtually abandoned jazz, devoting his energies more to classical and theatre music. In 1955 he studied at the Elder Conservatorium of Music and went on to play cello and bassoon in various groups and orchestras as well as being involved in musical productions as director, composer, arranger and pianist. This activity led to the formation of the Flinders Street Revue Company in the early 1960s.
In 1964 Dallwitz ceased to teach art in secondary schools and until 1974 was a lecturer at the South Australian School of Art, instructing mainly in art history. During the 1960s he pursued an interest in print-making and also taught jewellery-making, producing a number of copper enamel pieces himself. In 1969, having exhibited regularly in group exhibitions up to this time, he held his first one-man exhibition at the Central Street Gallery, Sydney.
A return to jazz in 1970 saw a number of bands formed and disbanded, as well as numerous recordings made over the next decade. One of the most important of these was the Ern Malley Jazz Suite, which had its world première in 1974 at the Art Gallery of South Australia in association with an exhibition of the works of Sidney Nolan.
After his retirement from lecturing in 1974 Dallwitz became increasingly active as a painter and had frequent one-man exhibitions. In his painting and his print-making he dealt with a wide range of subject matter, including landscape, figure work and still-life. His largely representational style was marked by an acute understanding of colour, form, composition and paint handling.
In 1986 David Dallwitz was awarded the A.O. for services to music and in 1994 the Art Gallery of South Australia honoured him in his eightieth year with a retrospective exhibition. His work is represented in the Art Gallery of South Australia, the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and numerous other public and private collections in Australia and overseas.
He died on 24 March 2003 and was cremated.
Hylton, J., David Dallwitz: Sixty years of art (Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, 1994).