Roy de Maistre | The Australian Painter with a Key Role in British Modernism

Roy de Maistre | The Australian Painter with a Key Role in British Modernism

Sworders are delighted to offer two paintings by Roy de Maistre (1894-1968) in our upcoming Modern & Contemporary Art auction, which will take place on 4 October 2022.

13 July 2022


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 shellshocked 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’ hang in Westminster Cathedral.

Featured in October are two striking still life oil paintings. The larger piece depicts a full vase of flowers in vibrant reds, yellows, blues, purples and white. This eclectic bouquet is set on an angular table with an abstracted screen in the background, meanwhile the vase 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.

Roy de Maistre, Still life of flowers in a vase, £15,000-20,000


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.

Roy de Maistre, Lilacs in a vase, £6,000-8,000


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. These works appear on the auction market for the first time in the UK in our Modern & Contemporary Art auction, closing for consignments on 19 August.



To find out more about the sale or for a free, no-obligation valuation of your Modern or Contemporary Art, please contact our specialists at





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