Francis Daniel Devlan was born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1835. His father, an industrious iron businessman, moved the family to Reading, Pennsylvania in 1839. Patrick Devlan, an avid sportsman and patron of the arts, exposed his son to important local art exhibitions and agricultural events. At the age of sixteen, Devlan studied under James A. Benade.
Benade was influential in the young artist’s life, encouraging him to enter his paintings for exhibition at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Devlan eventually had eleven paintings accepted by the Academy, revealing his talent to the discriminating critics of the major art center in the United States.
In 1854, Devlan and a contemporary, Hiram D. Torrey, began an art association in Reading, known as the Reading Art Union, in an effort to encourage a local interest in the art. Devlan also began offering art lessons at this time. His students included Christopher H. Shearer and Edward A. Howell.
Daniel Devlan painted the Berks County landscape in exacting detail, with the use of deep hues and selective luminous light. His paintings are revered for the strong detailed features and striking colors, with gnarled tree roots and branches, boldly composed muscular animals, and vivid thalo blue skies. He painted several commissioned pieces for the owners of prize winning cattle and bulls, as it was a prestigious statement throughout the American art scene at that time. Devlan also appreciated the lovely blue mountains and lush forests that surrounded him in Berks County. He sketched and painted detailed studies of foliage, tree roots, and stream banks. Many of Devlan’s larger canvases depict the wonderful stately forges, mills, and furnaces of the local countryside.
Devlan enjoyed working in an illustrative manner. He drew full-page cartoons for Frank Leslie’s “Illustrated News” during the Civil War, and provided sketches for Dr. Peter G. Bertolet’s manuscript of early life in Oley.
Francis Daniel Devlan died in Reading, Pennsylvania at the young age of thirty-five, an outstanding and accomplished artist.