Arthur Devis (19 February 1712 – 25 July 1787) was a Lancashire-born artist, half-brother of the painter Anthony Devis (1729–1816), and father of painters Thomas Anthony Devis (1757–1810) and Arthur William Devis (1762–1822). His place in the pages of art history is generally as a painter of the type of portrait now called a conversation piece.
Arthur was taught by the Flemish painter Peter Tillemans. Though his early work was in part as a landscape artist, he also drew upon family connections to win clientele for portraits of the members of pro-Jacobite Lancashire families. In fact, by 1737 he had gravitated to portrait painting, setting up a studio in London.
In London Devis acquired a considerable reputation, though his success was to follow a certain parabola. Faced with other fashionable artistic currents represented by the work of such painters as Joshua Reynolds and Johann Zoffany, his commissions declined and he was obliged to move to restoring pictures. His marriage in 1742 produced twenty-two children, though few survived. He sold all the paintings in his possession in 1783 and in 1787 died in retirement in Brighton.
A conversation piece is an informal group portrait popular in the eighteenth century, small in scale and showing people – …