Click on photos to enlarge.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Roy De Maistre

Rhythmic Composition in Yellow Green Minor, 1919, Roy De Maistre.
Roy De Maistre Self-portrait, ca. 1930
Leroy Leveson Laurent Joseph De Maistre was born Leroy Livingstone de Mestre in 1894, the youngest son of a wealthy New South Wales (Australia) family whose fortune derived from the banking business and horse breeding. The young lad was educated along with his siblings by tutors and governesses in the manner of proper upper-class British children during the early 20th century. Roy played the violin and viola as a teenager and studied music at the  New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music, playing viola in the Sydney orchestra before switching to painting. He studied art at the Royal Art Society of New South Wales. It wasn't until years later, that Roy De Maistre lengthened his name in the hope of raising his profile as an artist, thinking (mistakenly) that he was of royal blood.
One of De Maistre's early
color chart studies.
Equating color and music,
then painting it abstractly.
When WW I came, Roy joined up. Then he was rejected (his chest measurement was insufficient). He joined again only be be discharged as medically unfit for duty. A third time he enlisted, this time, however he asked to be discharged. He could not handle the workload of a hospital orderly in training. He had tuberculosis, a disease he'd initially kept hidden from doctors. It was also the reason he'd switched from music to art. As an artist, Roy De Maistre was in a unique situation, trained as a musician but now demonstrating considerable skill as a painter. He chose to combine the two talents. He painted music. His Rhythmic Composition in Yellow Green Minor dating from 1919 is important both for this intermixing of art and music, but also as one of the earliest purely abstract paintings ever produced. Russian artist Kazimir Malevich was playing around with simple black and white on white rectangles a bit earlier but had yet to delve into color as De Maistre was at this time.

Still Life, 1922, Roy De Maistre
Ironically, Roy De Maistre was far more interested in music than painting but probably a far better painter than he was musician. His Still Life (above) from 1922, demonstrates his skill at both drawing, painting, but especially his rendering of subtle color tonalities. The painting was purchased by the New South Wales Art Gallery. In 1923, De Maistre journeyed to England and France on a scholarship where he continued his studies. There in 1924, he patented and published his "De Maistre Colour Harmonising Chart." He returned to Sydney in 1926 where he worked to make modern art fashionable. It was a hard sell. Giving up in disgust, De Maistre left Australia for good, moving to London, where he pursued a career as an Abstract Expressionist, aligned with Francis Bacon and Martin Block, influenced by Picasso and Matisse. His Studio Interior (below) is from this period.

Studio Interior, 1931, Roy De Maistre
Patrick White, 1939, Roy De Maistre
In 1936, Roy De Maistre met the American novelist, Patrick White. Both were homosexual though all official biographies claim they never became lovers, only close friends (smirk). White was 18 years younger than De Maistre, but they were very much alike in temperament and intellect. Both men had been rejected by their families (De Maistre's family termed his work "horrible"). Similar themes of Christian symbolism are prevalent in their work. Both enjoyed upper-class social standings. White dedicated his first novel to De Maistre. De Maistre's painting Figure in the Garden (below) became the cover for White's second novel, The Aunt. White also became the biggest collector of De Maistre's work.

Figure in a Garden, 1945, Roy
De Maistre--a Cubist book cover.
During the Second World War De Maistre worked for the British Red Cross, painting little, other than a few rather traditional society portraits. After the war, he converted to Catholicism and espoused Cubism with his Crucifixion (below, left) and Deposition (below, right), both painted in 1952. Late in life he painted a series of Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral. In 1962 De Maistre was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Shortly before his death in 1968, De Maistre returned to his studies of music and color painting with a series of fan-shaped color studies. Much of his work now resides in the New South Wales Art Gallery located in the country which had rejected him in his youth.

Crucifixion, 1952, Roy De Maistre

Deposition, 1952, Roy De Maistre


No comments:

Post a Comment