Nave was born in LaGrange, Texas in 1886. His first art instruction came from his mother, Lou Scott Royston, a well-known Texas painter, who encouraged her son's talent. He later studied under such diverse mentors as Pompeo Coppini, Texas culptro (“Confederate Soldier,” DeLeon Plaza, Victoria), J. Ferdinand McCan of Victoria, Robert Henri, Walt Kuhn, Lawton Parker and I. R. Wilson.
It was in New York that Nave became renowned for his portrait work, of which he had many one-man exhibitions. He left New York to serve in the U.S. Army in World War I, after which he traveled the western United States, painting landscapes and portraits. He returned to New York to have several more one-man shows, including two at Milch Gallery in 1919 and 1920. After returning to Victoria to study with his mentor, J. Ferdinand McCan, Nave met and married Emma McFaddin McCan. Back in his native Texas, Nave continued to paint the landscape he was so fond of, as well as commissioned portraits. One of his most well-known, a portrait of Rebecca Fisher, the “Mother of Texas,” is in the extensive collection of the State Capitol in Austin. His extensive career included exhibitions not only in New York, but also the National Academy, the Pennsylvania Academy, and the Carnegie International Exhibition of 1919 in Pittsburgh, as well as numerous regional and national competitions.
In 1931 Royston Nave suffered a fatal heart attack while visiting his brother in Harlingen. The Royston Nave Memorial, now the Nave Museum, was commissioned by his widow, Emma McFaddin McCan Nave. The building, a majestic Greek revival temple designed by San Antonio architect Atlee Ayers, opened in 1932 to house Nave's paintings and contain the library of the Bronte Study Club. When the Victoria Library on Main Street was built in 1976, Mrs. Nave's heirs, the McCan family, deeded the building to the city to be used as an art museum for the region. The city in turn rented the building to the newly created Victoria Regional Museum Association, formerly the McNamara-O'Connor Historical and Fine Arts Museum, to operate as a visual arts center. In December 2003 the city deeded over the property to the Victoria Regional Museum Association.