Lot 8
  • 8

ARTHUR MELVILLE, A.R.S.A., R.S.W. A.R.S. | Garnet Sails

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
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  • Arthur Melville, R.W.S., A.R.S.A
  • Garnet Sails
  • signed and dated l.l.: Arthur. Melville .98.; signed, titled and inscribed on the artist's label: Garnet Sails/ The Property of/ W. McEwen Esq./ Edinburgh/ Arthur Melville/ 13 Mell- Road/ Kensington W/ Kensington
  • watercolour, pencil and bodycolour
  • 85 by 59.5cm., 33½ by 23½in.


Aitken Dott & Son, Edinburgh;
W. MacEwen Esq., second cousin of the artist, and thence by descent


Edinburgh, Dott's Scottish exhibition, 1898;
London, Royal Watercolour Society, 1899, no.148;
London, Royal Watercolour Soceity, Winter Exhibition, 1904-5, no.201;
Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, 1904, no.107, lent by W. MacEwen Esq.;
London, Royal Institute, 1906, no.132, lent by W. MacEwen Esq.;
Glasgow, Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, 1907, no.44, lent by W. MacEwen Esq.;
Kirkcaldy, Kirkcaldy Art Gallery, Inaugural Loan Exhibition, 1925, no.77, lent by Mrs MacEwen


Agnes E. Mackay, Arthur Melville, Leigh-on-Sea, 1951, no.131, p.133, illustrated pl.36;
I. Gale, Arthur Melville, Edinburgh, 1996, p.99;
K. McConkey and C. Topsfield, Arthur Melville Adventures in Colour, exh.cat, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2015, p.112

Catalogue Note

Arthur Melville was one of the leading Scottish artists of his generation – an important influence to future generations yet one who pursued his own distinctive path. Experimental and forward-looking, he was an associate of the Glasgow Boys, inspired by the Impressionists and embraced the spiritual doctrine of the Symbolists. He was a consummate artist with oils but it was with watercolour that he made the medium his own. In the summer of 1894 Melville made his first visit to Venice, producing largely impressionistic watercolours that record his experiences of the city and its architecture. Melville painted the Rialto, the subject of the present painting, on more than one occasion. In 1896 he exhibited a similar view of the bridge, seen from the other side and entitled The Rialto, at the Glasgow Institute and which was formerly in the collection of his patron and friend Graham Robertson. Garnet Sails is the more engaging work. Rather than a landscape view of the bridge seen from the water, the current painting adopts a more complex viewpoint, depicting the bridge from a higher and tighter angle, intersected by the vertical masts, which demands a more astute rendering of perspective. Melville's handling of the medium is equally confident. Form is rendered with bold and purposeful brushstrokes which give greater emphasis to mass over unnecessary detail. Light and shadow are masterfully conveyed, noticeably in the left-hand sail and in the fluid handling of the reflections in the water. The composition possesses a skilled harmony and rhythm, in colour and form, which nevertheless exudes a convincing simplicity that defines Melville as a master of watercolour.

In an intriguing article that may well refer to the present work, Frank Rutter wrote in the Sunday Times in 1904, '...[Melville] is a consummate artist and most brilliant painter. His one exhibit at the R.S.A., a watercolour of Venice, ablaze with colour, is sufficient to teach one this.'