The Court Gallery

John Melville

(British, 1902–1986)

interior by john melville

John Melville

Interior, 1950–1959



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 towards the 1920s, spending most of his time in the Cotswolds until the early 1930s.
His early paintings show a strong Cubist influence. In the early 1930s, he became a convert to Surrealism, and remained more or less faithful to surrealist ideas for the rest of his life. A member of the Birmingham Group in the 1930’s, he joined the Surrealist Group in 1938. Shortly afterwards, just before the onset of World War II, Melville published a series of pieces in the Surrealist publication London Bulletin, but a clear move towards painted portraits and still life was evident during the war.
His first one-man show was held in 1932 at the Crescent Theatre, Birmingham; followed by an exhibition at the Wertheim Gallery, London - one of the most progressive avant-garde galleries around at the time.
The Post War years brought about a change in his work, he turned more to conventional modernism. In the 1960s he reverted to Surrealism again adding a strong element of expressionism. He was working almost in total isolation towards the end of his life.


John Melville: A 'Marvellous' English Artist - A Personal Journey to Surrealism and Beyond, The Millinery Works Art Gallery, London (solo)
Surrealism in Birmingham, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
From the Unconscious to the Irreverent, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Retrospective, Westbourne Gallery 62, London (solo)
Memorial Exhibition, Gothick Dream Fine Art (solo)
Retrospective, Blond Fine Art, London (solo)
British Surrealism 50 Years On, Mayor Gallery, London
Surrealism in Britain, touring exhibition
Angels of Anarchy and Machines for Making Clouds, Leeds City Art Gallery
A Salute to British Surrealism, 1930 - 1950 which toured The Minories, Colchester; Blond Fine Art, London; The Ferens Hall Art Gallery, Hull