Melvin Day was born in Hamilton in 1923. In 1934, Day began Saturday morning art classes at the Elam School of Art, and in 1937 he was given permission by the Department of Education to study at the Elam for one day a week. From 1939-40 he studied full-time at Elam where he gained a Preliminary Diploma of Fine Arts in 1940. Day served in the New Zealand Army from September 1941-43, and from 1944-45 he was transferred to the Royal New Zealand Air Force, where he remained until discharged after the war.
After a few years teaching and painting in the Rotorua area, Day arrived in Wellington in 1954 and took up studies towards a Bachelor of Arts at Victoria University of Wellington while teaching at Hutt Intermediate School. From the late 1950s onwards, he exhibited widely in New Zealand and his work was included in the 1961 ‘Commonwealth Art Today’ exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute, London. In 1964, he participated in ‘Young Commonwealth Painters’ exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery, London, which included the work of other New Zealand painters such as Ralph Hotere, Edward "Ted" Bullmore, and Gordon Browne. Other exhibitions overseas include: ‘New Zealand Artists’ (Qantas Gallery, 1964); Biennale of Commonwealth Abstract Art (Commonwealth Institute Gallery, London, 1966); Solo exhibition (Commonwealth Institute Gallery, Ediburgh, 1966); Smithsonian Institution, (Travelling Exhibition, 1969).
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts with honours, he taught at schools of art in London before returning to New Zealand in 1968. Day studied art history at London’s Courtauld Institute, and was appointed Director of the NZ National Art Gallery in May 1968, and became Government Art Historian in 1978.
1970 - Retrosepctive Exhibition, Dunedin Public Art Gallery
1972 - Retrospective Exhibition, Dowse Art Gallery
1984 - 'Full Circle', major survey exhibition at Wellington City Art Gallery
2000 - 'Melvin Day: A survey 1940s to 2000', Tinakori Gallery
2004 - 'Melvin Day: Continuum', City Gallery Wellington.
Biographical details from 'Melvin Day: Continuum', City Gallery Wellington, 2004. And from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melvin_Day