The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Arthur Melville, 1855-1905

Nationality: Scottish
Date of Birth: 1855.04.10
Place of Birth: Loanhead of Guthrie, Angus
Date of Death: 1905.08.28
Place of Death: Witley, Surrey


Arthur Melville was a watercolour painter of genre and figure subjects and an illustrator.


Melville studied at the Edinburgh College of Art under John Campbell Noble and also in Paris. From 1880 to 1882 he travelled in the Middle East, visiting Baghdad, Cairo, Istanbul and Karachi. During this period his paintings were notable for their loose brushwork, heightened colour and romanticism. He remained preoccupied with Eastern subjects throughout the 1880s. He returned to Algiers and Spain in 1890, visiting the former in 1891 and 1892 with Frank Brangwyn. In 1894 he made his first visit to Venice, where he painted a number of Nocturnes, influenced by JW. He was also an occasional illustrator for the Graphic.

Melville was an active exhibitor, showing in London at the Royal Academy, Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours, Royal Society of Portrait Painters, Grosvenor Gallery, New Gallery and Dowdeswell Galleries, as well as at the Royal Scottish Academy, Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Water Colours, Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Royal Society of Artists in Birmingham, Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and Manchester City Art Gallery. He was elected a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1891, an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1886 and an associate of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1888, becoming a full member of the latter in 1899. He was a member of The Arts Club from 1890 until 1906.

Around 1886 Melville appears to have bought a number of JW's pictures from the Goupil Gallery, including White and Grey: La Cour de l'hôtel, Dieppe (YMSM 325), Grey and pearl - Bank Holiday Banners (M.954). He also enquired about some of JW's drawings and etchings, including JW's 'Venice Set' of etchings. JW informed him that Dowdeswell's had the second series and the Fine Art Society the first (#13475).

Melville was among those proposed invitees to a dinner organised by W. C. Symons to congratulate JW on being made an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Munich, a dinner which was to be held at the Criterion in Piccadilly on 1 May 1889 (#00631). In this year Sheridan Ford asked JW to write a letter of introduction for Melville to George Meredith, as Melville wanted to paint the latter's portrait (#01460). In May 1890 Philip Rathbone described Melville as belonging to the same school of artists as JW (#13287). In 1891, when both JW and Melville were serving on the hanging committee of the Walker Art Gallery, there were some disagreement between the two men over Melville's friendship with Sheridan Ford. Melville had been drawn into JW's dispute with Ford at a conversazione at the Grosvenor Gallery during a discussion between JW and the artist J. McLure Hamilton, to whom Ford's edition of Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, ed. Sheridan Ford, Paris, 1890 had been dedicated (#06595). However, on 18 August of that year JW wrote to Beatrix that 'I get on with Melville very well - indeed I could not have got on without him' (#06599).


Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Johnson, J., and A. Gruetzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980; McEwan, Peter J. M., Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture, Woodbridge, 1994; Walkley, Giles, Artists' houses in London 1764-1914, Aldershot, 1994.