Menzies Art Brands



The first impression of Roy de Maistres Annunciation c1934 is one of a painted stage set. There are minimal brightly coloured flats on each side of the image that focus the viewers attention on two cubist figures occupying centre stage. This seems like an innovative approach to depicting the announcement by the archangel Gabriel that Mary will give birth to the Son of God. Indeed, the image has the feel of a cubist stage set by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) for the Ballet Russes. The figures and their costumes are highly stylised, like participants in a modernist ballet.

De Maistre is one of Australias pioneering abstractionists. He left behind his Australian roots in 1930 to live permanently amid the London and European avant-garde art worlds.

He exhibited widely and befriended such luminaries as Francis Bacon (1909-1992). He was drawn to cubism as a vehicle for his ongoing interest in colour, music and abstraction. The current work, beyond its theatrical sensibility, has echoes of Giorgio de Chiricos (1888-1978) well known surrealist architecture composed of street scenes that feel like stage sets whose silence defies the possibility of dramatic action. In de Maistres Annunciation, the dramatic action has similarly been annulled. Instead he harnesses a powerful symbolic use of colour: the central figures humble brown garb has been shaped to represent Mary, while the white other-worldly figure of Gabriel casts a rich deep-purple shadow across the set. This is the work of a cubist colourist at the height of his powers.

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