De Maistre studied music at Sydney’s Conservatorium before studying painting, and saw analogies between colours of the spectrum and notes of the musical scale. He helped establish a mechanical scheme for translating melodies into colour, in which individual colour tones were linked with particular musical notes to derive harmonising colours from harmonising sounds.


In late 1918, Roy de Maistre collaborated with fellow artist Roland Wakelin in exploring the relationship between art and music. Their experiments produced Australia's first abstract paintings, characterised by high-key colour, large areas of flat paint and simplified forms. The works received critical acclaim, but modernist developments were largely derided by the conservative establishment.

This painting exemplifies de Maistre's theory of colour harmonisation based on analogies between colours of the spectrum and notes of the musical scale. It is also aligned with de Maistre's search for spiritual meaning through abstraction, akin to other artists such as Kandinsky who were interested in the ideas of the theosophy and anthroposophy movements, spiritualism and the occult.

Colour Chart.jpg

De Maistre interest in colour-music correspondences had commenced by 1917 when he worked with Dr Charles Gordon Moffit on colour schemes for rooms for shell shocked soldiers. Maintaining this earlier preoccupation with aligning well being and colour, de Maistre developed his 1919 colour-music system into 'The de Mestre Colour Harmonising Chart' which he patented in 1924 and sold through Grace Bros Department Store from 1926. The chart determined colour schemes by using a keynote colour, that with the aid of 'major' and 'minor' masks that were placed over a colour chart, shaped a chromatic palette or 'scale' of complementary and contrasting hues. It was promoted as a pragmatic 'new and scientific device for producing colour schemes' for dress, furniture and interior design.