Roy de Maistre

     

Otway & Orford proudly present 'The Football Match', created using Australian artist Roy de Maistre's rugby football painting in collaboration with its owner, the Janet Holmes à Court Collection in Perth, Western Australia. De Maistre (1894-1968) was a pioneer of modern Australian art and is recognised as the first Australian artist to use pure abstraction. Later works were in a figurative style and based on his interpretation of Cubism.

Roy de Maistre was born Leroy Livingstone de Mestre in Bowral, New South Wales, Australia to a well-to-do family of thoroughbred race horse breeders. He gave himself a number of names during his life including the change to de Maistre, believing the modern spelling better suited a modern painter. Following a home education, he was sent to Sydney in 1913 to continue his music and art studies, where he studied at the Royal Art Society of New South Wales as well as at the Julian Ashton Art School. He suffered from a general weakness and debility that saw him discharged from the Australian Army three times during the First World War. The cause was tuberculosis and was also the reason he gave up thoughts of pursuing a music career, instead focusing solely on painting.

One of de Maistre’s early artistic experiments was with ‘colour-music’, linking the colours of the spectrum to notes on the musical scale. In 1919 he held a joint exhibition with Roland Wakelin entitled ‘Colour in Art’ to advance his theory. The only existing example of the experiment is ‘Rhythmic composition in yellow green minor’, which visualises the sensation of slow unfolding music through colour movements and supports the fact that de Maistre was the first Australian artist to use pure abstraction in his work.

In 1923 de Maistre travelled to a number of countries in Europe on an art scholarship, which included periods studying in London and in France. On his return to Sydney he staged, amongst other things, one-man shows and contributed to other exhibitions, all helping to make modern art fashionable in the late 1920s. Rather, he made it as fashionable as it could be in a country still favouring Impressionism. Criticism of his artistic efforts made him believe his style of work could not flourish in his homeland and so in 1930 he left Australia to make a living permanently in London.

Living in London during the 1930s, de Maistre turned to a more recognisably figurative style but still modernist in approach as he painted his interpretation of Cubism. He was busy with one-man and joint shows and running a painting school for a short while. It was in 1936 that he set up studio at 13 Eccleston Street, where he was to remain based until his death. During this period, he also became friendly with a young Francis Bacon and acted as his mentor, having the greatest influence of anybody on Bacon’s work during the 1930s. In 1938 de Maistre painted the oil on canvas work, ‘The Football Match’, inspired by rugby football.

During the war years, de Maistre hardly painted but restarted once peace had returned, selling works and carrying out private commissions for society portraits. Little known today is that from 1912 to 1948 the Olympic Games awarded medals for art and literature about sport. ‘The Football Match’ was submitted for the 1948 London Summer Olympics, representing Great Britain in the painting event of the art competition.

During the 1950s, de Maistre exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, was part of Arts Council exhibitions and had work bought by leading art galleries including the Tate. A new theme started to appear in his works following his confirmation in the Roman Catholic faith and he created a number of modern religious works for public collections, exhibitions and buildings including for Westminster Cathedral. In his final decade there were some important statements of recognition from his adoptive home, with the Whitechapel Gallery holding a major retrospective in 1960 and with de Maistre being made a CBE in 1962.

‘The Football Match’ silk pocket square makes a perfect gift for men who enjoy their rugby whether watching or playing.

To know more about the Janet Holmes à Court Collection, please visit www.holmesacourtgallery.com.au