Still life study in grey green

Born Bowral, New South Wales, Australia 1894, arrived England 1929, died London 1968


Considered one of Australia’s first abstract painters, Roy de Maistre was also known in his early career for his development of theories on the relationship between music and colour. In 1919, de Maistre exhibited his colour-music works, which included titles such as Still-life study in blue-violet minor (1919), with Roland Wakelin in the Colour in art exhibition at Gayfield Shaw’s Art Salon, Sydney. The exhibition was controversial, generating debate over the artists’ unconventional use of colour in their depictions of otherwise realistic imagery, and was to become a landmark in the development of Australian modernism.

After winning a travelling scholarship from the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1923, de Maistre travelled to Europe, exhibiting at the Paris Salon and at the Venice Biennale in 1926. He left Australia permanently to live in England in 1929, where he became good friends with Patrick White who collected his paintings, and Francis Bacon who acknowledged de Maistre’s influence on his work. He gained a significant profile and in 1960 a retrospective of his work was held at the Whitechapel Gallery, London.

From 1930 de Maistre’s works reflect cubist, and occasionally, surrealist influences. His subjects included society portraits and religion, and he was commissioned to paint a series of works for Westminster Cathedral. Still life study in grey green is indicative of his later work, which frequently depicted cubist representations of the interior of his studio home.

His work is represented in all major Australian collections and most regional galleries, as well as in the Tate Gallery, London.