Campbell Archibald Mellon
C.A. Mellon was born in Berkshire on June 16th 1878, but showed little aptitude for painting at school and it was not until 1903, when his business career took him to Nottingham, that he first began to paint seriously. He was fortunate in being taken under the wing of Carl Brenner, a nephew of B.W. Leader, R.A.
After the First World War, in which he served gallantly, albeit reluctantly for he had strong pacifist sympathies, he and his young bride moved to the seaside township of Gorleston, Norfolk. This was a turning point in his life. It was here that he met Sir J.S. Arnesby Brown, then at the peak of a creative ability which was soon to be curtailed by approaching blindness. There was a great affinity between the two men and the encouragement and tuition Mellon received from him dictated the path he was to follow. Nevertheless, he refused to permit his own individual spark to be extinguished by the other’s genius.
His first picture to be exhibited at the Royal Academy, in 1924, was a beach scene entitled ‘Yarmouth – August Bank Holiday’. From 1924 (when he was 46) until 1955, Mellon was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy and had more than 50 canvasses hung in the Society’s prestigious galleries. The first picture attracted considerable attention by reason of the myriad’s of tiny but clearly defined figures dotted all over the beach. They were executed with a deftness unique to Mellon and in picture after picture busy little figures loved to paint the beach at Gorleston while looking into the sun. The play of light on sand and water fascinated him. His skies are never a matter of perfunctory filling-in and, whether an untroubled blue or heavy with huge cumulus clouds, they are an integral and often dramatic part of the composition.
From time to time Mellon made sorties into the surrounding countryside. Then a quiet shade of green is much in evidence in his pictures. The whole mood is more pensive and these pictures reflect the artist’s serenity of spirit and his contentment with life. The Norfolk and Suffolk landscape, with its slow-moving rivers, its marshes and its feeding cattle, is portrayed with truth and affection.
Mellon is content with things as they are. He sees no need to Romanticise a distant windmill or a wherry tacking laboriously against the wind and the charm of so many pictures springs from the manner in which this contentment is expressed.
In 1938 C.A. Mellon was elected a Member of the Royal Society of Oil Painters and of the Royal Society of British Artists the following year. He was bombed out of his home in Gorleston in 1940 and settled in the Wye Valley near Symonds Yat.
At the end of the war Mellon went back to Gorleston and continued to paint the beaches and countryside he knew so well. There is little doubt that in the Wye Valley he had missed the companionship and stimulus of his friend and near neighbour Rowland Fisher, himself a marine painter of considerable merit. Mellon continued to paint avidly and exhibited in most of the important shows. His pictures are to be found in the public galleries of Bristol, Sheffield, Leeds and Great Yarmouth.
He was, above all else, the gentlest of men and yet he hated injustice and would rail against man’s inhumanity to man. He died in Gorleston on August 28th, 1955. He was mourned not only by the many artists he had helped but by all who knew him.