Artist biography

Australian painter and designer. From 1913 to c. 1915 he studied art with Dattilo Rubbo (1870–1955) and music in Sydney. In 1919 he devised a colour–music theory that allied the colours of the spectrum to musical scales and, with fellow artist Roland Wakelin, held an exhibition of eleven paintings and five room designs based on this theory. The paintings are characterised by simplified forms, large areas of flat paint and heightened, non-representational colour. De Maistre was influenced by international art, but these works are a unique Australian hybrid of Post-Impressionism. Further experiments in 1919 led de Maistre to produce Australia's first abstract paintings: only one documented example is known – Rhythmic Composition in Yellow Green Minor (1919; Sydney, A.G. NSW). From 1923 to 1925 he was in Europe on a travelling scholarship. On his return to Sydney he held two solo exhibitions at the Macquarie Galleries (1926, 1928), worked on room and furniture designs and lectured on modern art. In 1930 he returned to London where he lived until his death.

De Maistre's work of the 1930s comprised mainly Surrealist paintings and renewed colour–music experiments, such as Arrested Phrase from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Red Major (1935; Canberra, N.G.). After 1940 he developed a decorative Cubist style. Following his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1949 he concentrated on religious paintings (e.g. the Stations of the Cross, 1956; London, Westminster Cathedral), studio interiors (Interior with Lamp, 1953; London, Tate), flower paintings and portraits.

Bibliography
J. Rothenstein: ‘Roy de Maistre', Modern English Painters, ii: Lewis to Moore (London, 1956, rev. 2/1976), pp. 246–59, 329–30
Roy de Maistre: A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings, 1917–1960 (exh. cat., London, Whitechapel A.G., 1960)
H. Johnson: Roy de Maistre: The Australian Years, 1894–1930 (Sydney, 1988) [detailed bibliog.]
——: Roy de Maistre: The English Years 1930–1968 (Sydney, 1994) [detailed bibiliog.]

HEATHER JOHNSON

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