Paul Sandby’s Bicentenary

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on November 25, 2009

From the website of the National Gallery of Scotland:

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain
Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, 25 July — 18 October 2009
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 7 November 2009 — 7 February 2010
Royal Academy of Arts, London, 13 March — 13 June 2010


Paul Sandby, "Windsor Castle from Datchet Lane on a Rejoicing Night," Photograph: The Royal Collection © 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain looks at all aspects of Sandby’s career and includes studies of rural and urban views, street scenes, royal parks and ancient castles. Sandby explored a broader range of subject matter than any previous artist in Britain and was integral in refining the use of watercolour. This exhibition features over one hundred loans, including oil paintings, watercolours, gouaches, prints and sketchbooks, coming from all the major collections which house his work: The Royal Collection, The British Museum, The British Library, The Victoria and Albert Museum, and The Yale Center for British Art. It also showcases outstanding works from private collections.

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Addressing the exhibition in The Gaurdian (7 November 2009), Linda Colley describes Sandby’s standing in British society, then and now:


Stephen Daniels, et al (London: Royal Academy of Arts), ISBN: 978-1905711482, 216 pages, $55

. . . As George III’s remark illustrates, this view of him has always been coloured by varieties of snobbery. To this extent, the portrait of Sandby by Francis Cotes, showing him leaning out of a country house window, sketchbook in hand, can be seen as a calculated puff by a close friend. It accurately conveys Sandby’s good looks and pleasant temperament. But the portrait gives a flatteringly deceptive impression of a man as much at ease in polite and leisured interiors as he is with nature. In reality, Sandby’s family background was considerably more humble than that of Gainsborough or John Constable. Unlike his fellow academician Joshua Reynolds, Sandby was never a fashionable, expensive portrait painter. Nor was he a practitioner of academically prestigious history painting. And, crucially, unlike JMW Turner or Thomas Girtin, Sandby was not a metropolitan.

The son of a framework knitter, he was baptised in Nottingham in 1731; and this exhibition is very much a Nottingham achievement, where it was first displayed. The show, opening today at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh, and at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in March, was conceived by Stephen Daniels of Nottingham University. It is exactly the sort of deeply researched and ambitious regional art exhibition that is likely to be rendered increasingly impracticable because of government, municipal and corporate spending cuts. . . .

Sandby’s vision then is substantially (not entirely) loyalist and conventionally patriotic, and this may be another reason why his work is sometimes passed over. Morning, an extraordinary painting of a massive, venerable beech tree set firm in a Shropshire landscape, is, for instance, a powerfully loyalist testament. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1794, five years after the fall of the Bastille and in the midst of war, the painting would have been understood as an allusion to contemporary conservative celebrations of an ancient, organic British constitution as against the recent republican outgrowths of revolutionary France. As the exhibition catalogue argues, Sandby’s vision was also increasingly a Britannic one. Like Turner, Sandby made repeated tours throughout Wales and Scotland, representing not just their scenic and cultural differences, but also the ways in which these countries were undergoing change and becoming in some respects far more closely linked with England. . . .

For the full article, click here»

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