Bea Maddock studied art education at the University of Tasmania, Hobart and taught secondary school in Hobart before travelling abroad to study at the Slade School of Art, London. Her teachers included William Coldstream, Ceri Richards and Anthony Gross. During this time she visited Paris, Italy, Holland and Germany, where she closely studied the work of the German Expressionists, who were a formative influence. She also stopped in Bombay, India during the return trip by ship to Australia.
She returned to teaching in Launceston, Tasmania before settling in the state of Victoria. She taught printmaking at the Victorian College of the Arts from 1970 and returned to Tasmania as Head of the School of Art, Launceston in 1983-84. She was a Creative Arts Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra in 1976.
Maddock lived and worked at Mount Macedon, Victoria until the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 forced her to flee. Her house, studio and a large archive of the work of many decades was destroyed. She later returned to her native state of Tasmania. In 1987 she participated in the 'Artists in Antarctica' program with Jan Senbergs and John Caldwell. While on that voyage, she badly fractured her leg on Heard Island, which compromised her mobility for several years afterwards.
She was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia medal in 1991.
Maddock is best known as a printmaker, in which area she has had a profound impact on contemporary practice in Australia, combining printing with encaustic painting and installation art to explore the natural environment, Aboriginal Australia, and Australian history.
Her most recent major work, 'Terra Spiritus... With a Darker Shade of Pale', is a circumlittoral incised drawing in 51 parts of the entire coastline of Tasmania, each feature labelled with both the English and the aboriginal Tasmanian topographic names. The pigments used to make the drawing are made from native Tasmanian ochres.
Staff of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston, Tasmania are currently preparing a catalogue raisonné. It will contain entries on 978 works produced by the artist between 1952 and 1983.