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Arthur Devis, 1712–1787, British

Mr. and Mrs. Hill

between 1750 and 1751
Oil on canvas
Support (PTG): 30 x 25 inches (76.2 x 63.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
book | Chinese | Chinese vase | Chinese vase | conversation piece | couple | cups | etiquette | fireplace | food | house | interior | Italianate (Romanist) | man | octavo | oval | painting (visual work) | portrait | room | seated | standing | summer | table | tea | tea kettle | tea set | vase | white (color) | woman | yellow
Associated People:
Hill, George (c.1716–1808), lawyer and eccentric
Hill, Anna Barbara
On view

Arthur Devis was the most prolific painter of conversation pieces, having produced more than three hundred in various standard sizes, such as this, mostly for members of the largely Tory landed gentry and professional classes. The genre did not appeal so much to Whig grandees. Although he studied and perfected many of the techniques of the Dutch Old Masters, Devis was uneasy drawing from the live model, possibly because of his training as a miniature painter. He relied on a small wooden lay figure or mannequin that he kept in the studio and, when necessary, dressed it in miniature costumes. In this two-figure conversation piece, Mr. and Mrs. Hill pose in the corner of a room which, though sparsely decorated, contains a large oval Italianate landscape painting mounted as an overmantel and a Chinese vase in the fireplace—it must be summer. Seven exquisitely painted cups and saucers on the tea table indicate that five guests are expected, while Mr. Hill has placed his book (octavo) on the mantelpiece. His pose reflects nearly contemporaneous rules for gentlemen as set out in etiquette manuals. This does not necessarily suggest that Mr. Hill was trying especially hard, nor that Devis felt it necessary to underline the point. Nevertheless, Mr. Hill’s right-angled feet, and the position of his hand in his waistcoat, are what François Nivelon’s “Rudiments of Genteel Behavior” (1737) recommended. It is tempting to identify the sitters as the Tory lawyer and eccentric George Hill (ca. 1716–1808) and his wife, Anna Barbara, daughter and heir of Thomas Medlycote of Cottingham, Northamptonshire.

A Great Collection of British Pictures in Virginia, The Times (London), Issue No. 55689, May 1, 1963, p. 5, Available Online : Times Digital Archive Also available on Microfilm: Film An T482 (SML)

Art Across North America, Apollo, vol. 113, no. 228, February 1981, pp. 118-9, fig. 3, N1 A54 + (YCBA)

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, pp. 249-50, no. 18, pl. 18, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Ann Bermingham, Landscape and ideology, the English rustic tradition, 1740-1860 , Thames and Hudson, London, 1987, pp. 26-28, fig. 8, ND1354.4 B47 1987 (YCBA)

British Art at Yale, Apollo, v.105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 257, 259, pl. VI, N5220 M552 A7 1977 OVERSIZE (YCBA) Published as April 1977 issue of Apollo; all of the articles may also be found in bound Apollo Volume [N1 A54 105:2 +]

Ching-Jung Chen, Tea Parties in Early Georgian Conversation Pieces, British Art Journal, vol. 10, Spring / Summer 2009, p. 35, fig. 7, N6761 B74 OVERSIZE (YCBA) Also available online : ORBIS

Ching-Jung Chen, The early Georgian conversation piece : Thesis (Ph. D.)--Rutgers University, UMI Dissertation Services, Ann Arbor, 2001, p. 190, 690, fig. 36, Available online : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses

Viccy Coltman, Classical sculpture and the culture of collecting in Britain since 1760, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2009, p. 161, pl. 19, NB87.G7 C658 2009 (YCBA)

Malcolm Cormack, A Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 86-87, N590.2 A83 (YCBA)

Matthew Craske, Conversations and Chimneypieces: the imagery of the hearth in eighteenth-century English family portraiture, British Art Studies, Issue 2, Spring 2016, pages are unnumbereed, fig. 1, Available Online (Orbis) http://dx.doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-02/mcraske

Ellen G. D'Oench, Arthur Devis (1712-1787): master of the Georgian conversation piece, , University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Mich., 1982, p. 94-95, 347, no. 79, illus. no. 100, NJ18 D5151 D635 1979A (YCBA)

Ellen G. D'Oench, The Conversation Piece: Arthur Devis & his contemporaries, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1980, pp. 14-15, 16-17, 56, 84, cat. no. 23, AD List no. 70, pl. 23, NJ18 D5151 D64 OVERSIZE

Ralph Edwards, Georgian Conversation Pictures, Apollo, v.105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 257, 259, pl. VI, N1 A54 105:2 + (YCBA) Another copy of this article may be found in a separately bound and catalogued copy of this issue located on the Mellon Shelf [call number : N5220 M552 A7 1977 + (YCBA)]

Catherine M. Gordon, British paintings Hogarth to Turner, Frederick Warne, London, 1981, p. 14, ND466 G67 (YCBA)

Beatrice Hohenegger, Steeped in History, The Art of Tea , Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, 2009, pp. 152-3, GT2905 .S84 2009 + (YCBA)

Mr. and Mrs Hill About to Give Tea to Five Guests, Connoisseur, vol. 145, June 1960, p. XL VIII, J10 C762 + (SML)

Painting in England 1700-1850 from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, The Royal Academy of Arts Winter Exhibition 1964-65., , Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK, 1964, p. 55 (v.1), no. 201, ND466 R68 1964/65 (YCBA) Also available on Microfiche: Fiche B214 (YCBA)

Painting in England 1700-1850, collection of Mr. & Mrs. Paul Mellon. , Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, 1963, p. 121 (v.1), no. 229, pl. 74, ND466 V57 v.1-2 (YCBA)

R. Parkinson, Arthur Devis and His Contemporaries: Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Conn: Exhibit, Burlington Magazine, v. 123, no. 934, January 1981, p. 58-61, N1 B87 + OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v.1, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA)

Gillian Perry, Placing faces, the portrait and the English country house in the long eighteenth century , Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2013, pp. 47-48, 55-56, fig. 8, ND1314 .P533 2013 (YCBA)

Kate Retford, The Conversation Piece Making Modern Art in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2017, p. 188, fig. 142, ND1314.4 .R48 2017 (LC) Oversize (YCBA)

Charles Saumarez Smith, Eighteenth-century decoration: design and the domestic interior in England, , Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1993, pp. 142-43, no. 185, NK2043 A1 S28 1993 (YCBA)

Stacey Sloboda, Chinoiserie : commerce and critical ornament in eighteenth-century Britain, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2014, pp. 79-80, fig. 2.13, NK1443 S56 2014 (YCBA)

Roy C. Strong, The British portrait, 1660-1960, Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1991, pp. 142-43, pl. 128, ND1314 B743 1991 (YCBA)

Treasure Island: British Art from Holbein to Hockney, Madrid : Fundacio´n Juan March 2012, 2012, p. 136, No. 36, N6761 T74 2012 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Alice Winchester, English Conversation Pieces from the Mellon Collection, Antiques, vol. 83, April 1963, p 445, NK1125 A3 v. 83 OVERSIZE (HAAS)

Yale Center for British Art, Selected paintings, drawings & books, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1977, p. 14, N590.2 A82 (YCBA)

Yale Center for British Art, Selected paintings, drawings & books, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1977, p. 14, 715 Y18 977b (YCBA)

Yale University Art Gallery, Painting in England, 1700-1850, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, [exhibition at] Yale University Art Gallery, April 15-June 20, 1965. , vol. 1, W. Clowes and sons, New Haven, 1965, p. 21 (v.1), no. 72, ND466 Y35 (YCBA)

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