Description: Signed lower left; signed with initials and inscribed with title 'Lord and Lady Ashbourne and their Poodle!' on the reverse Oil on board
Dimensions: 62 by 73.5 cm
Provenance: The estate of the artist
The artist's cousin and executor, Doris Fisher; thence by descent to her niece
Private collection, United Kingdom
Notes: Roy de Maistre met Lord and Lady Ashbourne when he made his first trip to Europe in 1923-1925, after winning the New South Wales Society of Artists travelling scholarship. A photograph of de Maistre with the Ashbournes, probably taken circa 1923-1924, is inscribed on the back, in the artist's handwriting: 'Lord Ashbourne, Miss Codrington, Lady Ashbourne, R de M'.υ1 The Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum holds the painting Lord and Lady Ashbourne at Compiègne, 1924, a more realistic version of the present work.υ2 Lord Ashbourne (William Gibson, the second Lord Ashbourne) was an eccentric Irish peer - he wore a saffron and green Gaelic kilt and gym shoes, and reputedly caused a sensation in the House of Lords by delivering his maiden speech in Gaelic. He settled in Compiègne, France with his French wife, Marianne de Monbrison, and authored several books on Catholicism and other ecclesiastical subjects (an activity referenced in this work by Lord Ashbourne's intense concentration on his paper and pen). De Maistre maintained his friendship with the Ashbournes for many years. Niall MacDermott (son of Gladys MacDermott, an Irish art patron who supported modern artists during her sojourn in Sydney in the late 1920s) recalled being sent to Compiègne in 1934 to learn French, mainly because de Maistre was there. He also remembered being involved in the amateur theatricals which were a great love of the Ashbournes, and which were often performed in the forest at Compiègne.υ3 The Ashbournes and their home are the subjects of many of de Maistre's works. Paintings range from scenes of the Ashbournes and their guests on the river at Compiègne - usually in rowing boats - to interiors and portraits. Paintings of the couple were often listed in the catalogues of de Maistre's solo exhibitions. In this work de Maistre has stylised the earlier version of the work. In the Castlemaine version, Lady Ashbourne looks rather rigid and geometric, an appearance accentuated by the diagonal lines of her chair and the triangular shape of her hanging shawl, while Lord Ashbourne, in the background, has a much more organic form. In this later version of the work, de Maistre has made the composition more cohesive. The geometric forms of Lady Ashbourne's chair are emphasised more but are now echoed in the rectangular form around her husband's neck, and similarly the curves in her right arm and sleeve are repeated in the curved form under Lord Ashbourne's right arm. The work shows de Maistre's deliberate use of decorative techniques and his acknowledgement of cubist form (in the faces of the figures). The strong reds in the work complement the gold and green - perhaps highlighting those colours in reference to Ashbourne's own Gaelic tartan. In this work, as in many of his other paintings, de Maistre has taken a subject familiar to him - in this case a portrait of friends - and then reworked it, producing an accomplished, stylised design while still conveying the warmth of the original image. We are most grateful to Heather Johnson for her assistance in cataloguing this work.
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1. Reproduced in Heather Johnson, Roy de Maistre. The Australian Years 1894-1930, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1988, p. 43
2. Reproduced, ibid.
3. See Heather Johnson, Roy de Maistre. The English Years 1930-1964, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1995, p.38-39