Important Australian + International Fine Art
28 August 2019


(1894 – 1968)

oil on canvas

61.0 x 51.0 cm

signed and dated lower left: R de Maistre, 48

$60,000 – 80,000
Sold for $146,400 (inc. BP) in Auction 58 - 28 August 2019, Sydney

Private collection
Christie’s, Melbourne, 29 April 1996, lot 29
Ken and Joan Plomley Collection of Modernist Art, Melbourne
Summer, c.1955, oil on board, 39.5 x 29.0 cm, illus. in Johnson, H., Roy de Maistre: The English Years 1930-1968, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1995, pl. 22, p. 51

Catalogue text

It is fascinating to consider Roy de Maistre’s networking achievements in London in the 1930s. Within three years of his arrival, he counted key members of England’s avant-garde as his colleagues, including artists such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon and Ben Nicholson. He also connected with significant modernist influencers including Herbert Read and the wealthy collector-patron Samuel Courtauld IV. Born to a family of prominent textile makers, Courtauld became fascinated with post-Impressionist art in the 1920s, buying many important works including Édouard Manet’s Bar at the Folies Bergere, 1882; Paul Gauguin’s Evermore, 1897; and Vincent van Gogh’s poignant self-portrait featuring a bandage around his head following his attempt to sever an ear in 1889. Courtauld set up a Trust for the Tate Gallery to purchase works of equivalent stature, but following his wife’s death in 1931, relinquished their former house (designed by Robert Adam) and its artworks to the nation through the University of London, allowing for the creation of the Courtauld Institute for the study of art history.

De Maistre had first met Courtauld’s daughter, Sydney, when she visited Australia on her honeymoon in 1927. Her husband was Rab Butler, a young politician who would eventually become Deputy Prime Minister, then Foreign Secretary for the United Kingdom in the 1960s. De Maistre was quick to rekindle the friendship on his return to London,1 and through them became known to other members of the Courtauld family. He was a welcome visitor to the Butler’s palatial home Stanstead Hall, where he was provided with ‘a room at the back of the house, and … hampers of vegetables to take home’.2 The Butlers would further extend their patronage in 1937 by purchasing a three story building at 13 Ecclestone Street, Belgravia, and allowing de Maistre to live there rent-free until his death in 1968. In return, de Maistre painted a series of portraits of family members.

Samuel Courtauld also sat for two portraits by de Maistre, both dated 1947, and it is quite likely they were painted at his villa in France, the subject of the painting on offer here. Apart from his love of French painting, Courtauld had family connections to the country stretching back to the seventeenth century. He shared de Maistre’s own affection for France and particularly St Jean de Luz, a Basque-country resort where the villa was located, and where de Maistre had himself painted regularly since his first visit in 1923. There are also accounts of their friendship ‘ranging from de Maistre’s accompanying Courtauld on painting buying trips in Europe, to nursing him before his death’.3 Interior (Samuel Courtauld’s Villa, France), 1948 was painted the year following the philanthropist’s final illness and may therefore be considered as an homage or farewell. The doors are ajar, and what must have been an oft-occupied chair now stands empty as if Courtauld’s spirit has just left the room. De Maistre regularly painted works in series, reinterpreting them into orchestrated designs of colour and decorative-Cubist fracture; and three other variants of this painting are recorded. One of these is Summer, 1955, a larger version exhibited as part of the artist’s Retrospective held at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1960.4

1. De Maistre first visited Europe between 1923 and 1925 on a Travelling Scholarship.
2. Johnson, H., Roy de Maistre: The English Years 1930 – 1968, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1995, p.15
3. ibid., p.41
4. The watercolour sketch for Summer is in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.