John Melville

John Melville (1902-1986)

John Melville was born in London but moved to Birmingham in his youth. He attended classes at the Birmingham College of Art but, in effect, was self-taught, and begun to paint full time during the 1920s, spending most of his time in the Cotswolds until the early 1930s.

His early paintings show a strong Cubist influence and in the early 1930s became a convert to Surrealism; he remained more or less faithful to surrealist ideas for the rest of his life. A member of the Birmingham Group in the 1930s he joined the Surrealist Group in 1938. Shortly afterwards, just before the start of World War II, Melville published a series of pieces in the Surrealist publication, London Bulletin.

His first one-man show was held in 1932 at the Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, followed by an exhibition at the Wertheim Gallery, London, then one of the most progressive avant-garde galleries in the capital. He participated in the Surrealist exhibition at the Zwemmer Gallery, London, a landmark show in the history of British Surrealism.

The Post War years brought about a change in his work as he turned to more conventional modernism. In the 1960s he reverted to Surrealism, adding a strong element of expressionism. Towards the end of his life he worked in almost total isolation.

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