Andrew Melrose was born in Selkirk, Scotland in 1836. There are few records of his activities before the War Between the States, but he is thought to have emigrated to the United States in 1856. Many of his best knownworks are views of New York, including New York City and the Hudson River Valley, typically rendered in the romantic-realist style of the Hudson River School.
Melrose’s search for inspiring subjects also took him to various areas of the southern and western United States, and possibly to the British Isles and Austria. He painted a few South American and Cuban scenes as well, leading some sources to suggest he traveled there, though he seems never to have actually made the trip. Instead, he appears to have been inspired by Frederic Church’s imagery, as opposed to first-hand experience.
Melrose’s large and ambitious South American scene, "Morning in the Andes" (1870, Newark Museum of Art, Newark, New Jersey), clearly stems from Church’s Heart of the Andes. Church’s painting, widely circulated during the 1860s through William Forrest’s engraving, was one of the most admired, emulated and directly copied images of the nineteenth century. Melrose’s admiration for Church was also expressed in other paintings; for example, "Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives", painted by Church in 1870, is clearly the source for at least two paintings by Melrose.
In about 1880, Melrose visited the mountainous regions of North Carolina. Impressed with the natural beauty of the area previously unrecorded by members of the Hudson River School Melrose captured its essence in "The Land of the Sky, N. C". (present location unknown), a large and important canvas which he exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1881. Melrose was also intrigued by indigenous aspects of rural life, such as the illegal manufacturing of alcohol. "Whiskey Still by Moonlight" (circa 1880, Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc.), a dramatic night scene of men producing corn whiskey against a backdrop of dark, forested trees and somber moonlight, reflects this interest.