Colour Sketch - Dangar Island, 1918 signed and dated 'R. de Maistre / 1918' lower right oil on board 25.0 x 35.0cm (9 13/16 x 13 3/4in).
PROVENANCE The Collection of Mrs Neville Dangar Thence by descent Private collection, Sydney
EXHIBITED Colour in Art, The Art Salon, Sydney, 8 August 1919, cat. 9 Loan Exhibition of Roy de Maistre Paintings, Industrial Art Society's Rooms, Victoria Arcade, Castlereagh Street, 21 April - 5 May, 1937, cat. 2 as Dangar Island
Colour Sketch Dangar Island, 1918, is one of the rare 11 works by Roy de Maistre and Roland Wakelin displayed in the seminal Colour in Art exhibition of 1919. Now mostly held in the collections of our public institutions, Colour Sketch Dangar Island was exhibited alongside Rhythmic composition in yellow green minor, The Boat Sheds, in Violet Red Key, and Wakelin's Syncromy in orange major (all in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales).
Already belonging to the Dangar family at the time of the Colour in Art exhibition, Colour Sketch Dangar Island was painted whilst a guest at the Dangar Island property and has remained in the family since. An important patron to de Maistre, the breadth of the Dangar collection was demonstrated in 1937 when they loaned this work, along with numerous others, for display at the Industrial Art Society Rooms in aid of the Sydney Day Nurseries.
De Maistre's nuanced theory of colour responded to the underpinning order of Western music. Working from the ideas of the European Synchromists 1, de Maistre carefully equated colours with notes, yellow for C for instance, tonal qualities for volume, luminosity for pitch, and so on. De Maistre's theories were meant to have a practical, and saleable impact. Colour wheels produced for the exhibition were used to educate viewers, and were commercially produced and distributed by Grace Bros. Ltd from 1926. "The charm", wrote de Maistre in the accompanying instructional booklet, is "that only harmony can result".2
Colour Sketch Dangar Island, then, benefits from a consideration of de Maistre's intense interest in the fixed, mathematical aspects of the relationship between colour and music. This work represents subtle application of his colour theory, and stands apart perhaps from other contemporaneous works that moved into pure abstraction. Indeed, the scene is easy to make out as sweeping lawns and sand curl from the lower left edge of the panel and lead the eye out over the buildings to the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge and hawkesbury River. It is only the subtle incongruities of colour, a splash of orange, a hot pink building, that hint at de Maistre's innovative theories of non-representational colour.
1 Lynne Seear and Julie Ewington (eds.), Brought to Light: Australian Art, 1850-1965: From the Queensland Art Gallery Collection, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1998 2 De Mestre, Roi., "The "De Mestre" Colour Harmonising Disc." Grace Bros. Ltd. Sydney, 1926
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