Langdale Valley with River Brathay

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road

    A group of peasants relax in the countryside near London, while some cows graze nearby. In the distance, the familiar dome of St Paul’s Cathedral can just be made out. In another painted view by the same artist, a peasant family pause to rest; the breathtaking scenery of Langdale Valley in Cumbria is seen beyond them.

    Anthony Devis started his artistic career as a topographical landscape painter, following the basic formulae for classical composition seen in the work of the Italian artist Claude Lorrain (1604–1683) and later adding some elements of the picturesque. Lorrain imposed a classical order and harmony on his well-balanced and idealised landscapes. Typical elements of his compositions are open foregrounds, framed by trees to each side, and meandering paths or rivers leading the eye into the distance. 

    In 'Langdale Valley with River Brathay' some of these compositional devices can be seen. The wooded hillsides sit carefully on either side of the composition like stage scenery. The river winds its way gently through the landscape towards the horizon; the distance accentuated by tonal graduation. The sky is luminous in both paintings and light is well distributed throughout the scene. It features small, rather awkward figures in the foreground, somewhat out of scale, as if overwhelmed by the vastness of the landscape around them. 

    From the 1770s onwards, Devis introduced picturesque elements into his works, such as over-arching trees which frame compositions, and rugged rocks and ruins to enhance the aesthetic appeal.

  • About the artist
    Anthony Devis was born in Preston and was from a well-known artistic family. His half brother was the better-known painter Arthur Devis (c.1711-1787). Anthony is believed to have worked as a painter from the age of 13. He lived and worked in London from 1742 and won a prize for landscape at the Society of Artists of Great Britain in 1763. His work was exhibited at the Free Society of Artists in 1761 and 1763 and at the Royal Academy in 1772 and 1781. Devis toured widely around Britain, particularly in wilder areas such as the Lake District, and gradually both he and those who bought his paintings came under the spell of the picturesque.
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  • Details
    Langdale Valley with River Brathay
    Oil on canvas
    height: 89.50 cm, width: 120.50 cm
    Purchased from Agnew's, August 1955
    With Agnew’s Gallery, London; from whom purchased in August 1955
    GAC number