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Arthur Melville travelled to Venice in 1894. The city had long been a favourite subject for painters, but Melville found something new. The Blue Night shows St Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the Campanile dissolving into the dusk.

Melville evolved a new watercolour method. He saturated the paper with Chinese white paint and used sponges to create a velvet-like texture. Before applying the paint, he tried out ideas on pieces of glass held over the painting. Colour, such as the blue used here, drew attention not just to the subject of the work, but to the medium itself.

October 2013