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Painting meant as a symbol of life in Devon

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

On show: Portrait of a Devonian can be seen at Ramm until March 30

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THIS Portrait of a Devonian (Mrs Cleeve) by Francis Henry Newbury (1855-1946) was painted in about 1907-8. A letter sent by the artist to Ramm in September 1916 recorded that Mrs Cleeve lived 'in the neighbourhood of Bideford'. She was clearly well acquainted with him as he painted two portraits of her, the other of which is now in the Paisley Art Gallery.

In the same letter Newbury remarked that 'the costume she is represented in is the one she ordinarily wore'. This and the artist's chosen title for the work, 'A Devonian', suggests that he intended the image to be read as both that of an individual and as a symbol of his home county.

Newbury lived at Membury in Devon as an infant but at the age of three he moved with his family to Bridport in Dorset. In 1885 he was appointed director of the Glasgow School of Art and oversaw the opening of the new building, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in 1897. There he did much to promote Scottish artists in Britain and in Europe where his own work was widely exhibited. Portrait of a Devonian (Mrs Cleeve) will be on display in Gallery 5 at Ramm until March 30.

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