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Arthur Devis (1711 - 1787)

Lot 66: ARTHUR DEVIS 1711-1787


November 23, 2006
London, United Kingdom

More About this Item




measurements note
each 75.5 by 63 cm., 29 ¾ by 24 ¾ in.

A pair, the former signed and dated l.l.: Art. Devis fe./ 51

Oil on canvas

Quantity: 2


By descent from the Travers family, until acquired by W.E. Hurcomb Knoedler, New York;
Arthur Davis, New York, by 1932;
Newhouse Gallery;
Mr and Mrs Kay Kimbell, Fort Worth, Texas;
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, deaccessioned and sold at Sotheby's, London 12th July 1989, lot 35


New York, Knoedler, Hogarth and his Contemporaries, 1935, no. 14 and 15;
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, The Conversation Piece: Arthur Devis and his Contemporaries, 1980, no. 24 and 25


Sidney H. Paviere, The Devis Family of Painters, 1950, p. 57, cat. no. 133 and 134, illus. plate 10 and 11;
Kimbell Art Museum, Catalogue of the Collection, 1972, pp. 121-2, illus.;
Ellen G. d'Oench, The Conversation Piece: Arthur Devis and his Contemporaries, 1980, pp. 56-7, 88, no. 154 and 155;
Kimbell Art Museum, Handbook of the Collection, 1981, p. 31, illus.


Ellen d'Oench calls this delightful pair of paintings 'wholly characteristic of Devis's stylish work of the early 1750's (New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, The Conversation Piece: Arthur Devis and his Contemporaries, 1980, p. 56). Lancashire-born, Devis came to London in 1729 and by 1742 had established himself in a studio in fashionable Great Queen Street. By 1751 he was at the height of his career with great demand for his conversation pieces and small-scale portraits set in landscapes.

The paintings of Mr Edward Travers and Mrs Edward Travers reflect the poise and ease of good breeding which Devis conferred on his sitters, his delicate attention to detail and cool palette. Even the clothes of the couple are in harmony, with the dark blue of Mr Travers's coat complementing his wife's pale blue quilted petticoat and her white satin dress echoing her husband's waistcoat. Mr Travers's cross-legged pose, an expression of gentlemanly insouciance in portraits since the days of Nicholas Hilliard, was used to similar effect in the twenty-one-year-old Gainsborough's masterpiece, Mr and Mrs Andrews, c. 1748 (National Gallery, London).

Like Gainsborough, Devis was a particularly sensitive observer of landscape in his portraits. The landscape backgrounds to Mr and Mrs Travers are probably imaginary rather than topographically accurate depictions of the couple's estate; the hills may be reminiscences of Devis's native Lancashire. Devis creates an airy sense of space in the portrait of Mrs Travers by moving the eye from the exquisitely depicted plants in the foreground across a lake to misty blue hills. In the portrait of Mr Travers, a river winds its serpentine way through the painting and in the far distance is a boat on the sea.

These paintings stayed in the Travers family until the early part of the twentieth century but nothing so far has been uncovered about the sitters. They may possibly be related to T Travers of Trevalyn House, Denbighshire whom Devis painted in 1763 (collection of Ernest Hillman, Jrn, Fairfield, Connecticut; see Ellen G. d'Oench, Arthur Devis: Master of the Georgian Conversation Piece, unpublished PhD. thesis, 1979, pp. 423-4, no. 156).

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Important British Paintings (1500-1850)

November 23, 2006, 12:00 AM GMT

London, United Kingdom

For Sale from Sotheby's