Born Greytown, New Zealand 1887, arrived Australia 1912, died Sydney 1971


In New Zealand Roland Wakelin studied painting under Henri Bastin at the Wellington Technical School (1904), and exhibited at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. After moving to Sydney in 1912, he enrolled in painting and life drawing classes under Dattilo Rubbo at the Royal Art Society of New South Wales.

On meeting Roy de Maistre in 1918 Wakelin was introduced to de Maistre’s colour and music theory, in which each colour could be assigned to notes on a music scale and combined in harmonious combinations akin to musical composition. Along with de Maistre, Wakelin produced many experimental colour paintings and abstracts at this time, all the while maintaining a realist practice.

Around 1920 he was briefly influenced by Max Meldrum’s theories on tonalism and temporarily ceased his investigation of colour. These interests were reignited by a visit to London where he saw the works of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne. Domestic scenes, figure studies and beach views entered his subject matter from 1934, when his work became highly romantic.

Wakelin, who is represented in all major public galleries in Australia, was the subject of a major retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1967.