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Study in Red and Green

Study in Red and Green
signed 'R de Maistre' (lower right)
oil on canvas
81.3 x 55.9 cm
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A 10% Goods and Services tax (G.S.T) will be charged on the Buyer's Premium on all lots in this sale.

Lot Essay

In July 1938, Roy de Maistre exhibited eighteen works at London's Calmann Gallery under the title Flower Paintings by Roy de Maistre. The paintings reflected de Maistre's genuine love of flowers, which had prompted friends to observe that, despite his straitened circumstances, the artist would not hesitate to spend his money on purchasing them from the Chelsea Flower Market (H. Johnson, Roy de Maistre, Sydney, 1995, p.103)

The artist's profligacy did not, however, blind him to commercial realities, and the Calmann exhibition conveniently merged the artist's aesthetic sensibility with a realisation that works with this subject matter were destined to be well received by members of the buying public. In fact, it seems that all eighteen works in the exhibition were sold, providing de Maistre with sufficient income to support him for that year.

The works in the exhibition ranged from pastels to oils, and their subjects from an almost literal translation of their floral subjects to more complex investigations of colour, space and perspective. Throughout his career, de Maistre would return to the flowers as a subject appropriate to revealing his artistic capabilities, their colours and forms an ideal vehicle for his artistic expression. In fact, Study in Red and Green is a more brilliantly coloured but otherwise almost identical counterpart to the pastel Amaryllis, painted close to twenty years after the Calmann exhibition, in 1955 (private collection, reproduced Ibid).

In Study in Red and Green, the central form of the amaryllis extends from its pot in an exuberant protrusion of green, white, lilac and red. The table on which it is placed is at a perilous angle, sloping precipitously down to the base of the painting, yet the plant is held in place by de Maistre's superbly sophisticated structuring of the canvas. The arc of the black railings, the starburst patterning on the table and the subtle differentiation into blocks of red, purple and black provide a foundation for the potted plant. The strong white and red diagonal formed by the billowing curtain, which extends from the upper right of the image offers brilliant illumination, spotlighting the flower. An adjacent stripe of red further contextualises the amaryllis, the tendrils of the flower gripping the curtain, generating a surface tension that unites the background with subject.

De Maistre's capacity for a dense yet lyric use of colour was never allowed to overwhelm the internal logic of his paintings. His analytic approach to structures and forms never suppressed the liveliness and clarity of his paintings, exemplified by Study in Red and Green, which would mark him as one of Australia's greatest avant-garde artists.


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