National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Arthur Holdsworth Conversing with Thomas Taylor and Captain Stancombe by the River Dart Arthur Devis (artist)
British, 1712 - 1787
Arthur Holdsworth Conversing with Thomas Taylor and Captain Stancombe by the River Dart, 1757
oil on canvas
overall: 127.6 x 102.1 cm (50 1/4 x 40 3/16 in.) framed: 144.8 x 119.7 x 6.3 cm (57 x 47 1/8 x 2 1/2 in.)
Paul Mellon Collection
1983.1.40
On View
From the Tour: British Conversation Pieces and Portraits of the 1700s
Object 1 of 6

Arthur Devis first trained as a sporting and topographical artist, which explains the prominence given to animals and landscapes in his portraits. This conversation piece was commissioned by a twenty-four-year-old patron to commemorate his mercantile success.

Assessing the viewer with a demeanor of self-importance, Arthur Holdsworth is distinguished by his seated pose and adoring pointer. In the distance, one of his trading ships docks at Dartmouth harbor in southwest England. Dartmouth Castle, of which he soon will become governor, guards the approach from the English Channel. The ship’s captain, dressed in the uniform of the merchant navy, reports on the journey’s profits. Holdsworth’s brother-in-law, wearing spurs and carrying a riding switch, leans against the bench in a cross-legged stance then fashionable among young dandies.

Two other canvases by Devis are included among the National Gallery of Art’s conversation pieces. Portrait of a Gentleman Netting Partridges, dated 1756, includes a dog crouching at the lower left and a rustic, thatch-roofed cottage. Members of the Maynard Family in the Park at Waltons is unusually large among Devis’ more than 280 conversation pieces. The women and children, shown before their newly remodeled country house, pick flowers and play a guitar.

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