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 Melvin Day  (1923 - )

About: Melvin Day
 

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Lived/Active: New Zealand      Known for: painting

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Biography from International Art Centre:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Born in Hamilton, Melvin Day began formal art training at eleven years of age.  He attended classes at Elam School of Art under the tutelage of John Weeks, Lois White and Ida Eise, becoming a full-time student in 1939 and graduating in 1942.  Day spent the war years in the New Zealand Army and then the Royal New Zealand Air Force.  Following this, he taught at Ngongataha and in 1954 extended his studies, gaining a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University.

From the 1950s onwards Day exhibited widely throughout New Zealand and in 1961 at the Commonwealth Art Today exhibition in London.  Whilst based in London, during the early 1960s, he attended Professor Anthony Blunt's lectures at the Courtauld Institute.  Day became fascinated with the geometric precision employed by Italian Renaissance painter, Paolo Uccello, a fascination which resulted in the creation of Day's celebrated Uccello Series.  In 1964 Day exhibited alongside Ralph Hotere, Edward Bullmore and Gordon Browne in the Young Commonwealth Painters at Whitechapel Gallery, London.

For a time he taught in London before returning to New Zealand in 1968 and his appointment as director of the National Art Gallery of New Zealand.  In 1978 he was appointed government art historian continuing to paint professionally.  Two retrospective exhibitions were held, one at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in 1970 and at the Dowse Art Gallery, Lower Hutt the following year.  A major survey exhibition, Full Circle was held at the Wellington City Art Gallery in 1984. 

A thoughtful and scholarly painter, Day's interest in various periods of western art history is reflected in his work.  He studied and utilized a wide variety of influences from the painters of the Italian Renaissance, to the modernist works of Cezanne and Braque.  In 2003 Day was awarded the CNZM for services to the arts.  In 2004 a major survey exhibition Melvin Day - Continuum was held at City Gallery, Wellington.

In 2009, along with Nigel Brown and John Walsh, he travelled to Fiordland to paint the landscape which had inspired Cook's artist, William Hodges.  The journey was documented in Peta Carey's film The Waterfall.  Day's portrait of Donald McIntyre was gifted to the New Zealand Parliamentary Services in 2011.

Melvin Day's works are found in many national and international public and private collections including:

Te Papa Tongarewa
The New Dowse
The Rototua Museum
the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs
the Dunedin Public Art Gallery
the Auckland Art Gallery

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