John Scarlett Davis

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Self portrait
John Scarlett Davis.jpg

John Scarlett Davis (1 September 1804 – 29 September 1845), or Davies, was an English landscape, portrait and architectural painter, and lithographer.[1]

Life and work[edit]

Davis was born in Leominster, the son of James Davis, a watchmaker; Scarlett was his mother's maiden name. At the age of eleven, Davis won an award from the local society for the encouragement of the arts. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools in London, and began exhibiting his works at the annual Royal Academy shows in 1825 (with the painting "My Den"). He last exhibited in London in 1844. He was influenced by the work of his contemporary, Richard Parkes Bonington.

Davis painted portraits, landscapes, and church interiors, and developed a distinctive specialty in painting the interiors of art galleries. His picture The Interior of the British Institution Gallery (1829) records a collection of Old Masters. He lithographed and published twelve heads from studies by Rubens, and in 1832 some views of Bolton Abbey, drawn from nature on stone. His watercolor of the collection of Benjamin Godfrey Windus (1835) shows the Turner pictures on the walls. (John Ruskin studied those Turners while writing his Modern Painters.)[2] Davis painted the interiors of the Louvre as well. Between 1842 and 1845 he was commissioned to draw copies of the paintings in the collections of the British royal palaces.

Davis painted scenes on the Continent during his travels there. In 1831 he had a commission from Lord Farnborough to paint an interior of the Vatican and of the Escurial. He was in Florence in 1834, where he painted the interior of the Uffizi Gallery, and in Amsterdam in 1841 (sending the picture "Jack after a successful cruise, visiting his old comrades at Greenwich").

Davis's later years were marred by alcoholism and spells of imprisonment. His posthumous reputation suffered as a result. He died in 1835, aged just 41 years.

Davis's name is almost identical to that of John Scarlett-Davies, a modern video artist and director.


  1. ^ Tony Hobbs, John Scarlett Davis: A Biography, Almeley, Herefordshire, Logaston Press, 2004.
  2. ^ Lionel Lambourne, Victorian Painting, London, Phaidon Press, 1999; p. 27.

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