Art on This Day
Melvin Day died on this day in 2016, aged 92.He was a New Zealand artist and art historian. In 1939, he went on to tudy as a full-time student at Elam, graduating in fine arts two years later. Apart from a brief period at Auckland Teachers’ Training College, Day spent the remaining war years in the New Zealand Army and then the Royal New Zealand Air Force where he worked on topographical and landscape views of the Matakana area and Mototapu Islands due to his drafting abilities.
From the late 1950s onwards, he exhibited widely in New Zealand and his work was included in the 1961 Commonwealth Art Today exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute, London. By the early 1960s he had gained international recognition, prompting his move to London in 1963 where he enrolled at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, under the direction of art historian professor Anthony Blunt. Arriving in London in the early 1960s, Day was the first New Zealander to study European Art at the Courtauld. Although he would remain a somewhat obscure figure in Britain following his return to New Zealand at the end of the decade, at home he was celebrated for his colourful palette and fractured compositions, which drew comparisons with the work of Cezanne, Braque and Picasso.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts with honours, he taught at schools of art in London before returning to New Zealand in 1968.
He was appointed the director of the National Art Gallery of New Zealand (now the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) in 1968, and was appointed government art historian.
During his time as director, Day continued painting prolifically and two retrospective exhibitions were held: at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in 1970 and at The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, the following year.
Day's works are found in many national and international public and private collections including Te Papa Tongarewa, The Dowse Art Museum, the Rotorua Museum of Art & History, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the State Services Commission, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, the Auckland Art Gallery, and the New Zealand Portrait Gallery.
In 2003 he was appointed a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to the arts.
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