Melvin Day, New Zealand artist, Died at 92

Melvin “Pat” Day was born on June 30, 1923, in Hamilton, New Zealand and died on January 17, 2016

He was a New Zealand artist and art historian.

At the age of 11, he started going to Saturday morning classes at Elam School of Art, University of Auckland, under the tuteleage of Archie Fisher, John Weeks, Lois White and Ida Eise.

In 1939, he went on to study as a full-time student at Elam, graduating with a preliminary diploma in fine arts two years later.

He spent 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.

Fitting to his drafting abilities Melvin worked on topographical and landscape views of the Matakana area and Mototapu Islands.

In 1952, he married to Oroya McAuley, lived and worked at that time in Rotorua.

Mr.Day spent a few years teaching and painting in the Rotorua area, he arrived in Wellington in 1954 and after that took up studies towards a Bachelor of Arts at Victoria University of Wellington while teaching at Hutt Intermediate School.

During the late 1950s upwards, he displayed widely in New Zealand and his work was included in the 1961 Commonwealth Art Today exposition at the Commonwealth Institute, London.

Mr.Day enrolled at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, under the direction of art historian Professor Anthony Blunt, in 1963.

Whilst at the Courtauld Institute, Melvin Day grew a fascination for the geometric precision in the paintings of Italian Renaissance artist, Paolo Uccello and began what were to become the celebrated modernist adaptations of his Uccello series.

In 1964, Melvin engaged in Young Commonwealth Painters at Whitechapel Gallery, London, which also included other New Zealand painters Ralph Hotere, Edward “Ted” Bullmore, and Gordon Browne.

Later graduating with a Bachelor of Arts with honours, Day taught at schools of art in London before returning to New Zealand in 1968.

Melvin was designated the director of the National Art Gallery of New Zealand (now the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) in 1968 while there making purchases of paintings by Colin McCahon, Don Binney, and Gordon Walters, before the primacy of their work was established.

In 1978, Mr. Day was appointed government art historian.

During his time served as director, Melvin 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.

After that, Day’s paintings have been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions.

A significant survey exhibition, Melvin Day, Full Circle was shown at the Wellington City Art Gallery in 1984.

In 1990, Melvin Day was supported by the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Trust to paint Donald McIntyre.

Himself and Oroya Day gifted the portrait of McIntyre to the New Zealand Parliamentary Services, in 2011

He was considered a scholarly painter.

Mr.Day was awarded the CNZM for his services to the arts, in 2003,

In 2004, the continuum of the major survey exhibition Melvin Day, was held at City Gallery, Wellington, prior to travelling to Rotorua Museum of Art & History, Rotorua.

It was then followed in 2005 by Tracing Tasman, which was the inaugural exhibition of the redeveloped Nelson Provincial Museum.

In 2007, Mr.Day colluded with Mexican writer Frédéric-Yves Jeannet and completed a series of work based on Stabat Mater.

In 2008, the display was shown at Millennium Art Gallery, in Blenheim; in 2009 at Whakatane District Museum & Gallery; and in 2011 in the Wellington Church of England Cathedral.

In 2009, himself, Nigel Brown, Geerda Leenards, along with John Walsh travelled to Fiordland, to respond to the landscape which inspired Cook’s artist William Hodges.

All the tour was documented by filmmaker Peta Carey The Waterfall.

Mr. Days work can be found in many of the 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 and the Auckland Art Gallery.

Melvin Day passed away at 92 yrs old.