(b Preston, Lancashire, 19 Feb. 1712; d Brighton, 25 July 1787). English painter, active mainly in London but also in his native Preston, the best-known member of a family of artists. He was one of the first specialists in the small conversation piece and also painted single portraits of similar scale. His sitters are often somewhat artificially posed, with less animation than in Zoffany's conversation pieces of the next generation. Devis was a minor artist in his day and virtually forgotten until the 1930s, but since then his work has attained considerable popularity because of the doll-like charm of his figures and the delicate detail of his settings. It has also become of interest to social historians, as most of his clients were from the newly prosperous middle class—merchants and country squires.
Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)