Paul Sandby RA: Picturing Britain / Royal Academy of Arts






Royal Academy of Arts, London



Paul Sandby RA: Picturing Britain, A Bicentenary Exhibition
13 March—13 June 2010





The Royal Academy of Arts presents an exhibition of works by Paul Sandby RA (1731-1809). The exhibition marks the bicentenary of the artist’s death and celebrates one of the Royal Academy of Arts’ Foundation Members; it features over 80 works by the artist regarded as the ‘father of English watercolour’.


Paul Sandby


Paul Sandby
The North Terrace, Windsor Castle, Looking West, c.1765
Bodycolour over graphite
379 x 545 mm
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Paul Mellon Collection
© Copyright All rights reserved


Paul Sandby was celebrated in his day. The innovations and subject-matter that he introduced into the practice of watercolour painting in Britain had a profound influence on artists of successive generations, including Thomas Girtin and J.M.W.Turner RA. However, from the midnineteenth century, Sandby’s work slipped into obscurity.

This exhibition aims to redress Sandby’s position in the history of British art. It highlights the range and variety of Sandby’s techniques and subject matter: from his exquisite watercolour depictions of the British countryside from Surrey to Scotland by way of Wales, to his print series of street vendors which capture everyday life in eighteenth-century London with Hogarthian wit. Sandby portrayed scenes throughout Britain, helping to give visual form to the idea of the United Kingdom as a nation state.

Through his extensive tours, initially as a military draughtsman and later as a professional artist, Sandby pioneered landscape painting. He sought new sites and portrayed familiar ones with a fresh eye. His art is unrivalled among that of his contemporaries for its remarkable range of rural, urban, modern and historical subject matter. His work captures the diverse nature of the landscape of his day and provides an important record of a country experiencing rapid social, economic and political change.


Paul Sandby


Paul Sandby
Part of Wenlock Abbey in Shropshire, c.1770s
Watercolour over graphite
352 x 547 mm
Royal Academy of Arts, London
Photo Copyright Royal Academy of Arts/Slingsby
© Copyright All rights reserved

Paul Sandby


Paul Sandby
View in Luton Park, c. 1765
Pen, bodycolour and watercolour over graphite
535 x 740 mm
Private collection
© Copyright All rights reserved

Travel for edification and leisure, as defined by the Grand Tour, had traditionally been confined to the cultural sites and landscapes of the European classical heritage, notably Italy. How ever, during the second half of the eighteenth century, the popularity of the Grand Tour was increasingly challenged by the rise of the ‘picturesque’ tour within the British Isles. Tourists sought variety of scenery which was readily at hand in Britain, evidence of ancient historical monuments, often in ruinous condition, and manifestations of early industrialisation. They demanded visual representations that not only recorded the actual topographical and architectural detail of specific sites but also conveyed their distinct atmospheres and historical and emotive resonances. Sandby used his mastery of the watercolour technique and his innovative application of aquatint to meet the ever-growing expectations of both the upper classes and the increasingly affluent and leisured middle classes.

The exhibition focuses on the finest examples of Sandby’s work from a career which spanned fifty years. His celebrated watercolours including the majestic landscape The Rainbow (1800) and the picturesque depiction of Part of Wenlock Abbey in Shropshire (1770) are on display, together with works which demonstrate the exceptional range of his creative output, from maps of North Britain (one of which is over 3 metres in length), to paintings, prints and his set of twelve London Cries, including the curiously titled My pretty little Gimy Tarters (1759). The exhibition draws on all the major holdings of this prolific artist’s work, including the Royal Collection, the British Museum, the Yale Centre for British Art, the Royal Academy of Arts and the extensive collection of Sandby’s work held by Nottingham City Museums and Galleries, as well as private collections from which works are exhibited for the first time.







Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts
Images © Their respective owners. All rights reserved





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~ by Stampfli & Turci on April 17, 2010.

One Response to “Paul Sandby RA: Picturing Britain / Royal Academy of Arts”

  1. a superb artist , only recently discovered his works and what a discovery.

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