Roy de Maistre
'New Atlantis' c.1933
Purchased 2006
© Caroline de Mestre Walker

Roy de Maistre's New Atlantis is an exceptional work in its painterly and conceptual daring and sophistication. Painted after he migrated from Australia to England, this is an ambitious extension of his earlier work and conveys his broad, ongoing interest in modernism.

In the early 1930s de Maistre shared his interests in modernist ideas with the young British artist Francis Bacon, whose studio provided the basis for New Atlantis. Early in his career Bacon had worked as an interior designer. In 1932 he designed a large round mirror that is most likely the one that appears so prominently in New Atlantis. On either side of the room images of paintings (probably by Bacon) lean against the walls. The vertical divide of the doorway anchors the animated composition, while the linear figure in the dark space adds a mysterious dimension to the stage-like arena.

The title New Atlantis drew upon utopian, spiritual ideas for a new world order. These were expressed in a journal of the same name, edited by art historian and philosopher Dimitrije Mitrinovic, who initially commissioned this painting for himself. As a combination of aspects of modernist art practice and philosophical beliefs, New Atlantis is testimony to a spirit of the times.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

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