Bowral, New South Wales, Australia 1894 – London, England 1968
Arrested phrase from Haydn Trio in orange-red minor
[Arrested phrase from Haydn Arrested phrase from Haydn] 1919/35
London, Greater London, England
Creation Notes: conceived 1919, painted 1935
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on paperboard on plywood
‘Colour is … the very song of life … the spiritual speech of every living thing.’ Roy de Maistre1
Roy de Maistre conveyed the sounds he heard – the counterpoint and melody – in this rhythmic abstract arrangement of shapes, forms and colours. In the reds, greens, purples, yellows, blues and greys, he expressed his innermost response to a dynamic Haydn trio. He did not want to paint a picture of things, but sought instead to portray a pure realm, a spiritual plane beyond words and everyday imagery.
Throughout his life, de Maistre arranged colour as an expression of emotion. In 1913, aged 19, he studied the violin and viola at the New South Wales Conservatorium and painting with Dattilo Rubbo. In 1917, following a brief period in the AIF, serving on the home front, he became interested in the relation of colour to mental health and its use in the treatment of shell-shocked soldiers by decorating their rooms in soothing colours. In 1919, influenced by recent American books, de Maistre and fellow artist, Roland Wakelin, exhibited their first ‘colour music’ paintings. In these images, the artists translated the local landscape into patterns of strong forms and vivid colour. They believed that the seven colours of the spectrum corresponded to the seven notes of the octave and that compositions could be developed visually as well as through sound.
After 1919, de Maistre and Wakelin abandoned ‘colour music’ and abstraction and turned to painting representational images. In the 1930s, however, while living in Britain, de Maistre briefly renewed his interest in ‘colour music’, and painted a number of abstracts, including Arrested phrase from Haydn Trio in orange-red minor.
De Maistre’s interests were a reflection of his time: his belief in the spiritual qualities of colour had parallels with the ideas of theosophist artists Kandinsky and Mondrian, and his interest in creating visual equivalents of music was shared by European artists like Robert Delaunay and Frantisek Kupka and the Australians Sam Ateyo and Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack.
1Roy de Maistre, Extract from lecture on ‘Colour in Relation to Painting’ in Gayfeild Shaw, ‘The Art Salon’ Colour in Art, Sydney, 1919
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002