An American tonalist painter, Charles Melville Dewey is best known for his atmospheric landscapes, which drew critical praise from his contemporaries. Born into a farming family, Dewey was temporarily confined to bed during his early teenage years due to a hip disease. He spent this time reading and developing his interest in art. His parents did not support his artistic passion, so he worked as a janitor to support his years of study at the National Academy of Design in New York, which he attended intermittently from 1869 to 1876.
Dewey later traveled to Paris, where he studied with portrait painter Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran for two years. Back in New York, he opened a studio and offered painting lessons. Dewey painted English and American scenery, including numerous scenes of Long Island, and his landscapes, in classic tonalist style, capture the muted tones and moody effects of sunrises, sunsets, and moonlit evenings. He married one of his students, Julia Henshaw, and they maintained a residence and studio together at the Chelsea Hotel until the end of their lives.