Arthur William Devis

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Devis's posthumous portrait of Horatio Nelson
Sir William Beatty, Victory's surgeon at Trafalgar (1806)

Arthur William Devis (10 August 1762 – 11 February 1822) was an English painter of history paintings and portraits. He was appointed draughtsman on the British East India Company's packet Antelope in a voyage in 1783, under Captain Henry Wilson. In her he was injured in an encounter with Papuans near the Schouten Islands and was then wrecked on the Pelew Islands before proceeding to Canton and thence to Bengal. He painted portraits and historical subjects, sixty-five of which he exhibited (1779–1821) at the Royal Academy.


Devis was born in London, the nineteenth child of the artist Arthur Devis and his wife Elizabeth Faulkner. Devis is the younger brother of schoolmistress and grammarian Ellin Devis.

He is noted for being involved in the creation of the posthumous cult of Horatio Nelson. He painted a heroic Death of Nelson, for which he made sketches (including one of Nelson's body during the autopsy by Dr Beatty, the ship's surgeon) on board HMS Victory after her return from Trafalgar.[1]

Devis's Death of Nelson

Devis also painted Dr Beatty, and was commissioned by him to produce a half-length painting of Nelson as vice-admiral, which he lent to Emma Hamilton (who later lost it in an accident whilst travelling). Either the original or a copy of this portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy two years after the Battle and many copies were made of it (Lord Howe owned one, and another ended up in the collection of the National Maritime Museum), and it was also engraved in Beatty's account of Nelson's death.

Devis died in London.