About this artwork

This was painted in 1898 when Melville was working at Sandhills House near Witley Station in Surrey. The exact location of this scene has yet to be confirmed, one possibility being the former chalk pits at Betchworth or Coulsdon. The stunning composition reveals Melville to have been the most forward-looking and inventive of all the painters associated with the Glasgow School. By the 1890s he was highly regarded for the technical brilliance of his watercolours, some characterised by a truly exceptional modernity. Here he displays a similar capacity for avant-garde innovation in oils. Although executed on an exhibition-scale canvas, it was not shown publicly in his lifetime, perhaps because of this extreme experimentalism.

  • title: The Chalk Cutting
  • accession number: NG 2870
  • artist: Arthur MelvilleScottish (1855 - 1904)
  • gallery: Scottish National Gallery(On Display)
  • object type: Painting
  • materials: Oil on canvas
  • date created: 1898
  • measurements: 85.10 x 92.80 cm (framed: 113.30 x 120.30 x 5.00 cm)
  • credit line: Purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund and the Patrons of the National Galleries of Scotland, 2013

Arthur Melville

Arthur Melville

Melville's travels in Europe and the Middle East inspired his vibrant paintings in oil and watercolour. He developed a distinctive technique of watercolour painting, described as 'blottesque', using dabs of pigment on wet paper and blotting them with a sponge. Melville, born in Angus, studied painting in Edinburgh before moving to Paris in 1878. He gravitated to the artists' colony in Grez-sur-Long and sold the paintings he produced there to finance his journeys from North Africa to India. From around 1884 he worked closely with several of the Glasgow Boys in Scotland and in London, before his untimely death from typhoid.

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