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John Melville
(1902 — 1986)

John Melville was a British painter. Born in London in 1902, Melville relocated to Birmingham with his family at a young age. The growing cultural scene within the city during the 1920s encouraged Melville to explore his own artistic abilities. Though he attended classes at the Birmingham College of Art, Melville is widely regarded as a largely self-taught artist. Melville became closely associated with the Birmingham Surrealists in the early 1930s, during which time his initial interest in Cubism was taken over by a love of the Surreal. Though familiar with several emerging London Surrealists Melville and his brother, art critic Robert Melville, initially refrained from forming close ties to the group in order to explore the movement without limitations. Melville exhibited widely throughout England during his career. He enjoyed his first solo exhibition at the Crescent Theatre, Birmingham in 1932 before exhibiting at the progressive Wertheim Gallery, London in the same year. The artist frequently exhibited in his native Birmingham and in London, his early success heightened as his career developed by his inclusion in the landmark 1940 Surrealist Exhibition at the Zwemmer Gallery.


During the Second World War Melville began to focus on painting portraits and still life compositions, drawing his inspiration from the environment around him. In the years following the War, the artist continued to exercise his artistic talents by developing a more modernist style of representation in his work. Melville held a position at Birmingham University during the 1950s where he taught in the extramural department. He continued to exhibit his own painterly works regularly in several group and solo exhibitions throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Melville died in 1986. His work remains in a number of collections in Britain, including those of the Birmingham and Leeds Museums, and in the eminent international Nesuhi Ertegun and Daniel Filipacchi Surrealist collections.