DEVIS Family of Artists (1711-1827)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Papers relating to the Devis family of artists, [1781]-1954, comprising items from the Tupper family papers, notably a Devis, Malham and Marris family tree, [1820]-1850, biographical details of family members, [1835]-1854; information collected by Sydney Herbert Pavire relating to the Devis family from various sources, including details of Devis and Marris family members from parish and civic records, correspondence with the Royal Academy of Arts about the family, [1950], photographs of original documents signed by members of the family, [1781-1785]; correspondence to Sydney Herbert Pavire concerning lectures about the family, and possible purchase of Devis pictures, [1950-1954], notably from Sir William Forster and the Rt Hon Lord Biddulph; extract and cuttings from printed material concerning the family, 1937, 1952.

Administrative / Biographical History

There were five Devis family artists: Arthur Devis ([1711]-1787), his half-brother Anthony Devis, (1729-1816), the two sons of Arthur, Thomas Anthony Devis (1757-1810), and Arthur William Devis (1762-1822), and Arthur Devis' son-in-law Robert Marris (1750-1827). Arthur Devis was a pupil of Peter Tillemans. He exhibited twenty paintings at the Free Society of Artists, largely portraits, 1762-1780, (he specialised in portraits of landed families), and also restored Sir James Thornhill's paintings in the hall at Greenwich. Anthony Devis produced largely landscapes. His original work provided material for some of the engravings used by Wedgwood to decorate Catherine the Great's 'Frog Service'. Little is known of Thomas Anthony Devis, and almost none of his work can be identified. Arthur William Devis was appointed draughtsman on the Antelope, in about 1783, and was shipwrecked. He travelled onto Bengal, India, and painted portraits of English society and local people during his stay there, 1784-1795. On his return to England in 1795, he continued his work, including 'The Death of Nelson', 1805 (at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich). He exhibited sixty-five pictures at the Royal Academy during his professional career between 1779-1821. Robert Marris married Arthur Devis' daughter Frances. His work is not well known, but comprises largely landscape drawings. Whilst a young man he lived and travelled with Anthony Devis, who very probably influenced his work.

Sydney Herbert Pavire (1891-1971), was Art Director and Curator, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, Lancashire, 1926-1959. The collection of Devis family art held by the gallery almost certainly inspired Pavire's interest, leading him to produce a number of publications about them.

Arrangement

Arranged in sections as above.

Conditions Governing Access

Initial applications should be made to the Deputy Librarian, Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R ORN. At least one week's notice is generally required for access to archival material.

Acquisition Information

The material, along with photographs of Devis family art, was presented to the Witt Library in 1961/1962. The photographs remain with the Witt Library, but the associated manuscript items were transferred to the Book Library in 1979.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed catalogue is available in the Courtauld Institute Library.

Archivist's Note

Sources: Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 1995); Courtauld Institute of Art catalogue; British Library On-Line Public Access Catalogue 97. Compiled by Julie Tancell as part of the AIM25 Project.

Conditions Governing Use

Material may be photocopied subject to the approval of the Librarian or Archivist, and provided it does not breach the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1988.

Bibliography

The Devis Family of Painters Sydney Herbert Pavire (F Lewis, Leigh-on-Sea, 1950); Lord Cornwallis receiving the Sons of Tippoo Saib. [A description by John Biddulph of two paintings by Arthur William Devis.] Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquis Cornwallis (JS Bagster, Ledbury, [?1840]); A Descriptive Catalogue of a few Asiatic Subjects...Painted by A W Devis Arthur William Devis (G Smeeton, Westminster, 1821); The Conversation Piece: Arthur Devis and His Contemporaries Ellen G D'Oench (Yale Center for British Art, 1980); 'British Artists in India, 1760-1820' Walpole Society, vol XIX, 1930-31, pp1-88 Sir William Foster; 'Arthur and Anthony Devis' Antique Collector, vol 5 no 3, April 1934 Sidney Herbert Pavire; 'Anthony Devis and his relatives' Antique Collector, vol 6 no 3, April 1935 Sidney Herbert Pavire; 'Biographical Notes on the Devis Family of Painters' Walpole Society, vol XXV, 1936-37, pp115-166 Sydney Herbert Pavire; Polite Society by Arthur Devis (1712-1787): Portraits of the English Country Gentleman and his Family (Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, 1983); Conversation Pieces: a Survey of English Domestic Portraits and their Painters Sacheverell Sitwell (BT Batsford Ltd, London, 1936); Anthony Devis (1779-1816): A Picturesque Traveller S Whittle (Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, 1993); The Genius of Wedgewood edited by Hilary Young (V & A Museum, London, 1995).

Corporate Names