For starters, the Arthur Melville watercolour is not a typically patriotic masterpiece; it’s no iconic Highland landscape or Henry Raeburn’s skating reverend, but rather a very personal take on what it means to be a Scottish artist.
Secondly, it wasn’t even painted in Scotland, but rather the famous Moulin Rouge dancehall in Paris. The colours were an attempt to capture the dancers’ bright tulle petticoats in pure washes of pigment at a time when “abstract art” didn’t truly exist.
And perhaps most importantly, however, it is larger than life. Melville’s original pocketbook study was less than four inches wide, yet here is a detail double that size. It allows us to see the granulating textures in all their glories and also reflects Lachlan’s approach to his subjects. As anyone who has watched his BBC documentaries will attest, he has an enthusiastic way of expanding upon the human aspects of long-dead artists and connecting us with their creative process. It stems from a pure belief in the power and joy of painting.
The Story of Scottish Art began life as an extension to his 2015 BBC four-part TV series of the same name. “A television programme is very unlike a lecture or a book, for example, because a large proportion of the time is spent looking, not just spewing out information. The programmes were, by necessity, slightly truncated versions of the story.”
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