Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Harriet Leonard Bull 1810c.

Arthur William Devis 

Portrait of Harriet Leonard Bull, Arthur William Devis
Oil on canvas
19th Century
24 x 20 inches 60 x 51cm
The present artist bear the same name as the celebrated painter of conversation pieces and small-scale portraits of the mid-eighteenth. The two men were father and son, although Arthur William was preceded by eighteen brothers, which explains the remarkable circumstance by which -in these painters at least- two generations can span the age of Hogarth and the age of Beechey and without any apparent show of the artists in between.

Arthur William Devis did in fact produce small-scale portraiture, particularly of military sitters, in which the dominant influence is that of Zoffany. He travelled to India 1784 and set up a practice there during the period when Zoffany was the dominant painter on the Subcontinent. The present work, however, shows that Devis was aware of changing fashions, and by the time that he was reestablished in England in the 1790s his work is more closely comparable to that of Beechey. Harriet Leonard Bull and contemporary military portraits demonstrate how he had absorbed the prevailing taste for the high colour of Beechey''s female sitters, their direct gaze, the fresh pigments and the troubled background, in which, as so often in his martial portraits, a clear, blue sky is interrupted by dark clouds and even smoke.

There is a link in the sitter''s family with Arthur Devis senior, since Richard Bull who lived at North Court, Shorwell, Isle of Wight, was portrayed by the elder painter with his wife in 1747.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.