Arthur Melville was born in Angus, Scotland in 1858. He took up painting at an early age, attending evening classes in Edinburgh before studying full-time at R.S.A. under John Campbell Noble. In 1872 he went to Paris where he was introduced to the work of the French Impressionists by Robert Weir Allan.
His remarkable colour-sense, which is so notable a feature of his work, came to him during his travels in Persia, Egypt and India (1880 - 1882). During this period his watercolour style developed rapidly and some of his most sparkling watercolours are of Eastern life. He continued working on these after his return to Scotland in 1882 and throughout the 1880's.
From 1884 he worked closely with Guthrie, Walton and other 'Glasgow Boys' in Scotland and in London.
In 1899 Melville married and moved to Surrey. He did not stop travelling, working in Spain in 1899, Italy in 1902, until he contracted typhoid in Spain in 1904, dying shortly after his return to England.
A comprehensive memorial exhibition of Melville's works was held at the Royal Institute Galleries in London in 1906.