Lot 6 § (Modern & Post-War British Art, 30th July 2020)
JOHN MELVILLE (1902-1986)
Poet with his muses
signed and dated John Melville 1965. (upper left)
oil on canvas
182.9 x 243.5 cm (72 x 95 3/4 in)
John Melville was a painter strongly influenced by Picasso. By the early 1930s his attention was drawn to surrealism and he was labelled as a surrealist in a 1932 Harper’s Bazaar article on British painting. The artist possessed a substantial knowledge of modern art, which had been acquired though visits to London galleries in the 1920s and early 1930s. Along with his brother Robert melville, who was an art critic and Conroy Maddox, he was a key member of the Birmingham Surrealists. By the 1960s Melville’s work continued to be imbued with surrealist motifs, but also showed an expressionist influence. Poet and his muses is an ambitious piece painted on a large scale. The thick outlines and distorted perspective pull the viewer in the wonderous world of the poet. Melville's singular style was acknowledged by his inclusion in numerous public exhibitions, most notably "Surrealism: Two Private Eyes" at the Guggenheim, New York in 1999.
(See: S.Levy, C.Maddox, The Scandalous Eye: The Surrealism of Conroy Maddox, Liverpool, 2003, p. 31)