About this artwork

Melville's experiences in Egypt inspired his fascination with the decorative potential of light and shadow. He explored the exquisite, scintillating patterns of the Musharabeyah woodwork of this Arab interior, balancing its intricacy against a broader treatment of reflective materials and surface patterns within the room. The seated man's composure and the restrained yet warm colouring of his garments complement the pervading stillness and serenity of the scene. The painting was worked up from sketches made in Cairo in 1881.

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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.