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 Andrew W. Melrose  (1836 - 1901)

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Lived/Active: New Jersey/California      Known for: landscape, Indian figures, genre

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Ad Code: 2
Andrew W Melrose
from Auction House Records.
View from New Jersey Looking Towards Downtown New York
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
New Jersey artist Andrew Melrose painted traditional, atmospheric landscapes inspired by travels in Europe, South America, and various regions of the United States. Many of his best paintings are views of New York State and New Jersey, especially regions of the Hudson River Valley and New York Harbor. Melrose typically painted in an indigenous American style of landscape painting, which may be characterized as romantic realism.

A self-taught artist, Melrose was born in Selkirk, Scotland in 1836. Although few records exist of his activity prior to the Civil War, it is thought that Melrose emigrated to the United States about 1856. In the two decades after 1865, he worked out of New Jersey, where he maintained studios in Hoboken and Guttenberg. Searching for inspiring subject matter, Melrose traveled to various Southern and Western areas of the United States, the British Isles and Austria.

In 1880 or 1881, Melrose visited the mountain region of North Carolina. In addition to being impressed with the natural grandeur of that region, he was interested by certain aspects of rural life. Melrose rendered many of his Southern landscapes, which typically included views of the mountains of North Carolina or the Shenandoah Valley, in soft, atmospheric terms.

In about 1887, Melrose executed an oil painting entitled" New York Harbor" and the Battery, from which he later produced a series of chromolithographs. This bright and airy view of the harbor recalls a long tradition of scenic landscape painting that goes back to the early nineteenth century.

Melrose's concern for rendering the effects of light and atmosphere signals a trend toward a lighter palette and looser brush stroke. These stylistic developments suggest the influence of the French impressionists in his mature work.

Melrose was a frequent exhibitor at the National Academy of Design between 1868 and 1883. He died in West New York, New Jersey in 1901.

Source: web-site of Cantor-Roughton Galleries, Los Angeles and Dallas


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Antonia Miether Melvill was born in Selkirk, Scotland in 1836, the son of artist George Melrose. While based in New Jersey, the younger Melrose had studios in Hoboken and Guttenburg from the 1870s until his death in West New York, NJ on Feb. 23, 1901. An itinerant artist, he traveled widely in search of subject matter. His painting locales included the East Coast from New England to North Carolina, Ireland, England, and California. His known works include Yosemite scenes with Indians and teepees. His early works are tighter in the Hudson River style, while his later works show the influence of Impressionism.

Exh: National Academy of Design. In: Oberlin College; New York and New Jersey Historical Societies; Newark (NJ) Museum.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
New York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America (Groce, George C. and David H. Wallace); Artists of the American West (Samuels); American Art Review, Dec. 1977.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from The Johnson Collection:
Little is known about the early life of Scottish-born artist Andrew Melrose, though available literature often notes that he was largely self-taught. He is thought to have come to America in 1856, stopping in New York before moving on to Toronto. Within ten years, Melrose, along with his wife, had relocated to the New York area. His first great success came in 1867 when he was commissioned by the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad to commemorate the extension of their line to Council Bluff, Iowa. The following year, the artist began to exhibit at the National Academy of Design, a practice he continued through 1883. During the 1870s, Melrose was represented by the Mathews Gallery in New York, where he showed large landscape work in the style of Frederic Edwin Church, notably Morning in the Andes and Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. These paintings are infused with Melrose’s highly panoramic imagination and reveal a sophisticated understanding of recessional planes and vanishing perspective. On a visit to England prior to 1880, he established a relationship with the London chromolithography firm of Raphael Tuck & Sons who regularly distributed his prints. Extant views of the Roman Campagna as well as Damascus and Jerusalem suggest that Melrose ventured far from the English shore.

At some point in 1880, Melrose made a Southern excursion to Georgia and the Carolinas and, upon his return, painted his monumental The Land of the Sky, North Carolina, which was exhibited to critical acclaim at the National Academy in 1881. Morning on the French Broad NC, (Old Blockhouse) is one of three scenes from the artist’s time in North Carolina for which there is documentation. The site is most likely Old Fort, in McDowell County, the westernmost post of the colonial era. From Melrose’s perspective, the mountains rise to the right while the moldering fort sits on a forested hillside between which the wide expanse of the river flows. The vast sense of scale is heightened by the dim early morning glow, as well as the curvilinearity of the river’s reach, broken by a shallow cascade in the middle planar field.

During the last decade of his life, Melrose turned to book illustration, working from a studio in West New York, New Jersey. His paintings can be found in the collections of the White House, New-York Historical Society, Newark Museum of Art and the American Museum of Western Art.

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina
www.thejohnsoncollection.org

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:

ANDREW W. MELROSE (1836-1901)

A little known yet prolific landscape painter, Andrew Melrose was born in Selkirk, Scotland in 1836. There are few records of his activities before the War Between the States, but he is thought to have emigrated to the United States in 1856. Following a brief stay in this country, he spent some time in Toronto, Canada, where he married Margaret Grice in 1858. The couple lived in New York City for a few years, then settled permanently in Hudson County, New Jersey, residing successively in West Hoboken, Guttenberg and West New York.

Melrose is not known to have studied with any professional artist, so he is presumed to have been self-taught. Many of his best-known works are views of New York, including New York City and the Hudson River Valley, typically rendered in the romantic-realist style of the Hudson River School.

Melrose’s search for inspiring subjects also took him to various areas of the southern and western United States, and possibly to the British Isles and Austria. He painted a few South American and Cuban scenes as well, leading some sources to suggest he traveled there, though he seems never to have actually made the trip. Instead, he appears to have been inspired by Frederic Church’s imagery, as opposed to first-hand experience.

Melrose’s large and ambitious South American scene, "Morning in the Andes" (1870, Newark Museum of Art, Newark, New Jersey), clearly stems from Church’s Heart of the Andes. Church’s painting, widely circulated during the 1860s through William Forrest’s engraving, was one of the most admired, emulated and directly copied images of the nineteenth century. Melrose’s admiration for Church was also expressed in other paintings; for example, "Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives", painted by Church in 1870, is clearly the source for at least two paintings by Melrose of the same subject and title (see Decade Review, pp. 744-745).

In about 1880, Melrose visited the mountainous regions of North Carolina. Impressed with the natural beauty of the area--previously unrecorded by members of the Hudson River School--Melrose captured its essence in "The Land of the Sky, N. C". (present location unknown), a large and important canvas which he exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1881. Melrose was also intrigued by indigenous aspects of rural life, such as the illegal manufacturing of alcohol. "Whiskey Still by Moonlight" (circa 1880, Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc.), a dramatic night scene of men producing corn whiskey against a backdrop of dark, forested trees and somber moonlight, reflects this interest.

A sweeping landscape view entitled "Tellulah Chasm, Georgia" (Allen Memorial Art Gallery, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, until 1953) also dates from this trip, as does "Early Morning on the Ashley River-Going to Market" (Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc.), a scene set near Charleston, South Carolina. This small oil painting, along with another of a riverside cabin entitled "On the Swanee River" (Private Collection), though finished works in themselves, may have served as studies for a large and complex studio work, "Life on the River" (Private Collection).

In the expanded picture, Melrose presents an image of man’s harmonious coexistence with a bountiful land. A group of freedmen have hauled their harvest to the west bank of the Ashley and loaded it into their flatboat. The boat is filled to capacity, so some of the produce is left onshore. Waving farewell to those left behind, the farmers begin their journey to Charleston’s historic market. The golden light that dominates the picture, the calm, mirror-like water, the sharp focus of the foreground and the overall horizontality are elements Life on the River shares with the landscapes of Church. Painted in response to luminism, it is not only one of Melrose’s largest paintings, but also perhaps one of his most accomplished, as he successfully combines genre with beautiful landscape.

A small, primitive version of "Life on the River", not painted by Melrose, is part of the Rivers Collection in Charleston South Carolina. The existence of this derivative work would suggest that Melrose’s larger work, or a print made from it, was known to naive artists.

Melrose’s career has not been thoroughly studied, and so the method he used for composing his pictures is presently unknown. Many small paintings, like those discussed here, have a bright, almost pastel coloration, and are delicately and loosely brushed. Their size, usually 12 x 16 inches, suggests they may have been painted "en plein air". If the format had pleased the artist or patron, either at the time of execution or even years later, the small work might become the basis for a large, finished oil. On the other hand, the small pictures may have been indoor products, composed in the studio from pencil sketches made in the field, then used in various combinations in larger, more detailed compositions.

Melrose was never a major figure in the art world, but he was well respected and seems to have enjoyed the patronage of several important clients. One of these, a Mr. L. Becker of Union City, commissioned Melrose to paint a large picture entitled "The Valley of the Hackensack from the Estate of L. Becker, Esq., Union City, New Jersey" (Newark Art Museum, Newark, New Jersey) for each of his four children. One version of the painting, which is also known as "View of the Hackensack Valley", is in the collection of the New Jersey Historical Society, Newark. The two remaining versions are unlocated (American Art in the Newark Museum, p. 352).

Melrose exhibited landscapes and genre pictures at the National Academy of Design from 1868 through 1883. He also exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association. In 1885, he produced what is perhaps his best known work, "New York Harbor and the Battery, NYC" (The New-York Historical Society, New York City). Replete with figures and anecdotal detail, this pleasant, light-filled picture shows a corner of Battery Park and New York Harbor at the mouth of the Hudson River. In the left distance stands the Statue of Liberty, unveiled on October 28, 1886, the gift to America from the French to commemorate the shared ideal of liberty born of revolution. At the right, partially visible behind the trees, stands an older New York landmark, Castle Garden. Leased in 1853 by the United States government for use as an immigration depot, this structure is, in all probability, the site through which Melrose entered this country in 1856.

A similar undated version by Melrose of the same subject, but differing in composition from the Society’s version, was in the collection of Ambassador and Mrs. J. William Middendorf II of New York in 1967. It was given to the White House in 1973 by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph M. Segel. At some point in the mid-1880s, Melrose produced a chromolithograph based on the Middendorfs’ version of the same subject (American Paintings and Historical Prints from the Middendorf Collection, p. 50).

Many of Melrose’s paintings were published as etchings or lithographs. He is also said to have illustrated books (Seibels, 1990). Melrose rarely dated his works, so it is difficult to trace his career after the mid-1880s, when he stopped exhibiting at the NAD. It is possible that he turned almost entirely to book illustration in the 1890s. A small painting of a cemetery near his New Jersey studio, titled "Peaceful Homes" (1891, Newark Museum of Art, Newark, New Jersey), is the only late picture known to date.

Melrose died on February 23, 1901 at the age of 64. He is buried in Grove Oaks Cemetery, the subject of "Peaceful Homes", just a few feet from the grave he depicted in the painting.

Nancy Rivard Shaw, 1999© Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc.

References:

"American Art in the Newark Museum: Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture. Newark, New Jersey: The Newark Museum, 1981".

"Decade Review of American Artists at Auction" 1/86-1/96. Mansfield, Ohio: Franklin & James Publishing, 1996.

Kloss, William, et al. "Art in the White House: A Nation’s Pride. Washington, D.C.": White House Historical Association, 1992.

Koke, Richard J. "American Landscapes and Genre Paintings in the New York-Historical Society, Vol. II. New York: The New-York Historical Society, 1982.

Seibels, Cynthia. "An Early Morning on the Ashley River, Going to Market". Spartanburg, South Carolina: Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc., 1990.

Weiseman, Marjorie E., Curator of Western Art Before 1850, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, letter to author, 26 August 1999. According to Ms. Weiseman, two paintings by Melrose were bequeathed to Oberlin College by a patron, Charles F. Olney, in 1904. Both paintings, "Tellulah Chasm, Georgia" (41 3 x 23 inches) and "Waterfall in Nevada" (42 x 42 inches), were acquired by the donor before 1887. The pair was deaccessioned in 1953.

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