Although Arthur Melville was a ‘tremendously vital’ Scot, it took an English, London-based art critic to remind us of Melville’s genius. Reviewing the Glasgow boys exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2010 in the Evening Standard, Brian Sewell wrote about the richness of Melville’s work which he found ‘quite astonishing’. He also noted his compositional modernity - ‘ as satisfyingly proportionate and abstract as a Mondrian’. He declared that he ‘would enter a Faustian pact to possess Awaiting an Audience with the Pasha.
However, Melville has for too long been a prophet in his own country. Oils such as Chalk Cutting and Contrabandista (both shown in this exhibition) are strikingly avant-garde for an artist who died in 1904. However it was as a watercolourist that he was in a class of his own as far as technique is concerned. Big set piece works such as Corpus Christi, Rialto Bridge and Tangiers make the case for calling him the most accomplished watercolourist working in Britain in the late nineteenth century.