George William Seymour Melhuish was a painter and a philosopher. Born in Bristol in 1916, he spent his formative years in London between the wars, where he met avant garde artists such as the sculptor Jacob Epstein and the painter and writer Oskar Kokoschka who introduced him to Expressionism, the prevailing movement of the time. Expressionist painters, both abstract and figurative, typically convey their emotions through their use of colours and the movement and energy they apply to the paint. Early Expressionism was greatly inspired by works such as Edvard Munch's The Scream.
When the war ended, Melhuish moved to Paris where he associated with the prominent artists of the day, in particular Brancusi and Chagall, as well as Michel Tapi, an international art critic, writer and advocate of Abstract Expressionism. Under their influence, Melhuish's paintings gradually moved towards abstraction and its characteristically energetic and free use of paint. At the same time, he also became interested in philosophy and worked on his first book The Paradoxical Universe, which was published in 1959. For the rest of his life, George Melhuish dedicated his time equally between writing and painting.
In Abstract no 89 the artist has kept the background flat, leaving large areas of canvas bare. This not only gives a sense of perspective to the painting but it also emphasizes the movement expressed by the great strips of paint applied with force across the canvas. Warm and earthy oranges alternate with cool lemons and grassy greens with here and there some touches of white, swirling and oozing paint. Patches of soft blue greys at the top of the canvas suggest the sky, consistent with the paintings subtitle Summer Sunset.
When compared to the figurative paintings of his youth, many of them portraits, Melhuish's later abstract works show what a remarkable journey he undertook with his art. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1943 and 1944, and his works can be found in many collections around the country, notably in Swindon Art Gallery and the Imperial War Museum. His investigative spirit still lives on today through his bequest, which is administered by the Elephant Trust for the specific purpose of supporting imaginative proposals and new work.