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Sketchbook of Francis Stevens, 1819-1823

From June 23rd 1819 to July 24th 1823 the landscape artist, etcher, and drawing master Francis Stevens (1781-1823), recorded various views of areas in and around Devon in a 180 x 120mm pocket leather sketchbook, bound with a brass clasp. Colyton, Manaton, Totnes, Clovelly, Lynmouth, Teignmouth, Plymouth, Cranbrook and Exeter are all captured in meticulous pencil drawings, interspersed with notes of Stevens' journeys and observation. At various points, particularly at Berry Pomeroy, Stevens indicates that he is walking and sketching with the celebrated painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). Containing descriptions as well as drawings, observations as well as proverbs, Stevens' sketchbook provides a fascinating glimpse into how the county looked in the early 19th century. Simultaneously, his interest in "Effects" and the "Sublime" is more widely revealing of contemporary movements in landscape painting. In the latter years of his life, Stevens was working towards a published volume "illustrative of Exeter and his vicinity," for which this series of sketches might have served as a preparation. Either way, this sketchbook would be his last- he died, unexpectedly, in November 1823, and several pages to the back of the book are left blank.

More information about Francis Stevens and his links to the Devon & Exeter Institution can be found here

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