Roy de Maistre (Australian, 1894-1968)
A vase of midsummer flowers
signed 'R. de Maistre' l.l., oil on canvas
99 x 73cm
Provenance: The artist;
collection of Dora Thomas, c.1940s;
gifted to current vendor as a wedding present in 1973.
An early pioneer of colour theory and abstraction in his native Australia, de Maistre initially studied at the Royal Art Society in Sydney. After the First World War, he developed his concept of colour by working with shell-shocked soldiers and creating colour combinations to soothe them. He was also a talented musician, playing the viola and violin at Sydney’s Conservatorium. Music formed part of his colour theory as the idea of harmonising colour (as composers do with notes) appealed to him.
In 1923, he won a scholarship to travel to Europe. Greatly influenced by European modernism, in particular cubism, de Maistre settled in London permanently in 1930.
He first met Francis Bacon in 1930, and in 1932 the pair both took neighbouring studios in Chelsea. De Maistre has been heralded as one of the key influences on Bacon’s development in this early period, encouraging his collecting habits, use of photographic material when painting, and expanding his art historical knowledge. The two are believed to have had a brief affair but were primarily friends. The influence of both artists upon each other is clear in works such as de Maistre’s ‘Francis Bacon’s Studio’ (1932). They exhibited together twice at 17 Queensberry Mews West (1930) and Thos. Agnew & Sons (1937).
In 1960, de Maistre achieved his first retrospective exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. His work is also held in the Tate Britain and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia. De Maistre’s ‘Stations of the Cross’ hangs in Westminster Cathedral.
This is the larger of two paintings on offer in this auction. Its vibrant reds, yellows, blues, purples and white depict an eclectic summer bouquet with blue and white stocks, roses, yellow ranunculus, black-eyed Susans and scabiosa. The vase is placed on an angular table with an abstracted screen in the background, it is reflected in the table in cubist forms that are echoed in the flower heads. It speaks of de Maistre’s distinctive interpretation of the cubist movement.
Sold separately is a smaller still life of white lilacs by the artist, softer in comparison to the first and executed in a more simplified palette, de Maistre still employs expressionistic strokes to create interest in the shadowed background and space around the vase.
Both paintings were gifted as a wedding present to the current owners in 1973. They had been acquired by a family friend in the 1940s directly from the artist.
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Sold for £26,000
Framed size: 115 x 89cm.
Light surface dirt, a small bulge to canvas upper right corner, another to the lower left edge where something has fallen in between the stretcher and the canvas, probably a wedge. There is a little craquelure emerging in small isolated areas. Possibly a little discolouration to varnish along top, slight stain to frame, otherwise generally appears to be in good condition, under UV light, there are some small areas which fluoresce, however it seems likely these are the result of the artist's pigments rather than anything else as generally it is in its original state.
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Auction: Modern and Contemporary Art, 4th Oct, 2022
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