Michael Andrews

Melanie and Me Swimming


Not on display

Michael Andrews 1928–1995
Acrylic paint on canvas
Frame: 1955 × 1959 × 77 mm
support: 1829 × 1829 mm
Purchased 1979

Display caption

Michael Andrews was one of the leading British painters of the post-war period. With Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud and Leon Kossoff he was a member of the so-called 'School of London'. In common with them the process of painting was central to Andrews's art. Typically his paintings evolved from real elements, such as photographs of people and places, together with his memories of them. These were then developed imaginatively through engagement with the paint itself. This painting of the artist and his daughter is based on a photograph of them swimming together. Andrews developed this image so that it also refers metaphorically to Melanie's transition from family life to society.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Inscribed ‘Melanie and Me Swimming 1978–9 Michael Andrews’ on stretcher
Acrylic on linen canvas, 72 × 72 (183 × 183)
Purchased from James Kirkman Ltd (Grant-in-Aid) 1979
Exh: Michael Andrews, Hayward Gallery, October 1980–January 1981 (124, repr. in colour) and subsequent tour of the Fruit Market, Edinburgh and Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

‘Melanie and Me Swimming’ is based on a 6 × 4 inch coloured photograph of Michael Andrews and his daughter, then aged 6, taken when they were on holiday at Glenartney Lodge, Near Comrie, Perthshire, in the summer of 1976. The photograph, which was not commissioned, was taken by a friend of Andrews, whom he considers an excellent photographer, Jean Loup Cornet; Andrews liked the photograph so much that he decided to base a painting on it which was executed in his Norfolk studio in 1978 and was finished in February 1979. Andrews first made a careful watercolour study (about 11 1/2 inches square) from the rectangular photograph. The photograph did not include the rocks above the pool which were painted from memory. The large picture was painted on unprimed canvas in acrylic paint applied using a spray gun as well as brushes; in the section depicting rocks strips of cloth saturated in paint were laid on the canvas and pressure applied.

Andrews considered that the scale of the figures in the painting, particularly the heads, was resolved at life size and found that it was important to adhere to this scale so that the figures should feel real to him. He did not stick ‘slavishly’ to the photograph when executing the watercolour and the larger painting and sees the photograph as a model or substitute object but not as an image to be copied.

Andrews painted a picture of fish, ‘School 4’, immediately before executing ‘Melanie and Me Swimming’; the latter was the first of a Holiday series of which five were planned. The second and third of this series, ‘Alistair's Day’ and ‘Peter's Day’, respectively, were painted immediately after ‘Melanie and Me Swimming’.

Michael Andrews has executed only two other self-portraits, one a drawing when a schoolboy and a painting showing himself frontally, in 1958.

This catalogue entry is approved by the artist and is based on a discussion with him on 19 February 1980.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981

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