Sporting paintings, like this example, showing country gentlemen engaged in outdoor pursuits, enjoyed great popularity in Britain from the early 18th century. As the identity of the sitter is now unknown, the title given to the portrait (probably assigned in the 20th century) alludes to 'The Compleat Angler' (1653), a well-known book on the sport by Izaak Walton.~
Nothing is known of the early provenance of the painting. However, in the mid-20th-century it was owned by publisher and printer Walter Hutchinson. Hutchinson formed a substantial collection of sporting paintings and, in 1949, founded the National Gallery of British Sports and Pastimes. The gallery was located at Derby House (renamed Hutchinson House) in Stratford Place, off Oxford Street. Hutchinson was somewhat presumptuous in calling it a ‘National Gallery’ for it was never presented to the nation and, following his death, a year after the gallery’s opening, the collection was dispersed.
Arthur Devis was born in Preston, Lancashire, and became a pupil of Pieter Tillemans, well known painter of sporting scenes. By 1745, Devis was enjoying a successful practice as a portrait painter of small scale works, probably both in Lancashire and London. He exhibited at the Free Society of Artists from 1761 to 1775 and in 1780, and became its President. In later years he began to paint on glass. He died in Brighton in July 1787. Arthur Devis had a half-brother, Anthony, and two sons, Arthur William and Thomas Anthony, all of whom became artists.
With Phillips & MacConnal, 49 Bridge Street Row, Chester; Hutchinson House Collection [collection of publisher and printer Walter Hutchinson (1887-1950)]; by whose executors sold through Christie's, London, 'The Second Portion of the Hutchinson Collection of Important Sporting Pictures' sale, on 14 December 1951, bought in; sold by Hutchinson's executors through Christie's, London, on 4 April 1952 (Lot 119), for £52.10.0; from which sale purchased by Agnew’s Gallery, London, on behalf of the Ministry of Works
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