Arthur Devis was a leading exponent of the eighteenth century ‘conversation piece’, an informal group of family or friends depicted in park landscapes or interiors. Devis also specialised in small-scale portraits of single figures.
Born in Preston, Devis was in London by 1729, working for the sporting painter Peter Tillemans. By 1742 he had established himself as a painter of fashionable rococo conversation pieces with a studio in Great Queen Street. As his career progressed, Devis became more sensitive to landscape settings and his figure groups become increasingly sophisticated and lively. Arthur Devis exhibited at the Free Society of Artists from 1761 to 1780 and was its President in 1768. At the end of his life Devis supplemented his income by cleaning and repairing the Painted Hall at Greenwich. He retired to Brighton in 1783 and died there in 1787.
Arthur Devis 's half-brother Anthony Devis (1729-1816) was a landscape and topographical painter. Among his portrait-painting pupils were his sons Thomas Anthony (1757-1810) and Arthur William Devis (1762-1822), his nineteenth child.