Noted New Zealand artist and RSA Fellow Melvin Day has died aged 93.
Day brought a Modernist eye to the prospects and people of his homeland. He gave his post-war landscapes, still lifes and images of Maori meetings a cubist sensibility.
Melvin Norman “Pat” Day was born on June 30 1923 in Hamilton on the North Island of New Zealand. He loved painting as a child and was encouraged by his mother, a talented water colourist.
In the 1930s he attended the Elam School of Art (part of the University of Auckland). During the Second World War, Day served first in the New Zealand Army (between 1941 and 1943) before transferring to the Royal New Zealand Air Force with which he remained until 1945.
After the war he taught and painted in the town of Rotorua, on the banks of the lake of the same name. A trip to Europe in 1949 introduced him to the work of Cezanne and the scorched landscapes of Spain.
He moved to Wellington in the early 1950s. While studying art at Victoria University he experimented in genres that were new to New Zealand’s art world. By the early 1960s he had gained international recognition. In 1968 he returned to New Zealand and the same year was made director of the National Art Gallery of New Zealand, a position he held for a decade, after which he became the government’s official art historian.
In 2003, he was appointed a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to the arts.