We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


The boat sheds, in violet red key



Roy de Maistre

Australia, England

27 Mar 1894 – 01 Mar 1968

Artist profile

  • Details

    Other Title
    Boatsheds, Berry's Bay
    Media category
    Materials used
    oil on hardboard
    32.9 x 22.2 cm board; 46.0 x 35.0 cm frame
    Signature & date

    Signed and dated l.l., brown oil "R. de Mestre/ 1919.".

    Purchased 2013
    South Building, ground level, 20th-century galleries
    Accession number
    © Estate of Roy de Maistre

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Roy de Maistre

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    From around 1917, Sydney artists Roy de Maistre and Roland Wakelin began exploring the power of colour to connect art and music. They experimented with colour to produce synaesthesia, the condition in which the stimulation of one sense leads to an automatic, involuntary response in another.

    De Maistre was particularly interested in global theories of correspondences between colour and music. His compositions systematically represented music in terms of colour: colour signified particular musical notes, the depth and lightness of colour stood for pitch, and the varying saturation of colour corresponded with musical volume.

    These experiments culminated in de Maistre and Wakelin's joint Colour in art exhibition in 1919 featuring small, colour-music 'syncromies' that prompted the first wave of abstract painting in Australia. While based on images of local scenes around Sydney's harbour landscapes (mainly around the Harbour's Berry's Bay), their works were intensely coloured, radically simplified and anti naturalistic.

    'The boat sheds, in violet red key' is one of only three paintings known conclusively to have been included in this seminal exhibition of Australian modernism. The painting demonstrates de Maistre's new dealings with colour and simplified form – taking colour beyond descriptive towards constructive and decorative uses. In such works, de Maistre (and Wakelin) did not dispense with representational content to suggest musical form, but rather invited the viewer to see the landscape in terms of colour, light and geometrical simplification. In doing so, they assumed a more expressive, chromatically heightened sense of harmonious unity in their painting.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 4 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 11 publications

Other works by Roy de Maistre

See all 110 works