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ID number:  BIRBI-2011.2
Institution:  The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Artist / Maker:  Melville, Arthur (1855-1904)
Title / Object name:  The Lawn Tennis Party at Marcus
Object type:  Watercolour
Place made:  Glasgow
Culture:  Scottish
Date made:  1889
Materials:  Watercolour and pencil heighted with bodycolour, on paper
Measurements:  76 x 94 x 3.4 cm unframed; 75.8 x 94.5 x 2.8cm framed
Provenance:  Acquired by the Barber Institute from Christie's Auction House, London, 17 November 2011

Originally conceived in the late summer of 1886, Melville’s fresh and spontaneous watercolour shows the family home of John Robertson (a friend of the artist), at Marcus in north-east Scotland. Robertson himself is sitting at the tea-table with the Revd John Herkless, later Principal of St Andrews University, while Mrs Robertson and Mrs (later Lady) Herkless play tennis gracefully in the foreground, underneath an autumnal tree. Melville’s first sketch for the subject was conceived in his blurry ‘blotesque’ manner, capturing the rapid movement of the players. In this finished watercolour, painted for exhibition after a gap of three years, his style is much more precise and the details of the composition more resolved. Perhaps the Robertsons rejected the first work and asked for greater clarity in the second.

Notes:  The Scottish artist Melville was born in Angus and became renowned for his colourful watercolours. He studied at the Trustees’ Academy in Edinburgh and then at the Académie Julian in Paris, before travelling widely visiting north Africa and Spain, where he made many vibrant watercolours of dancers, bullfighters and Moroccan snake charmers. On his return he spent time with the ‘Glasgow Boys’ group of artists, painting near the village of Cockburnspath, and exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1878 to 1896. He painted a further tennis party watercolour at Kilmaron Castle in Fife in 1889.

Exhibited: 'Arthur Melville', Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland, 10 October 2015 - 17 January 2016

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