Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sandby, Paul

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SANDBY, PAUL (1725–1809), watercolour painter, engraver, and caricaturist, son of Thomas Sandby ‘of Babworth,’ and younger brother of Thomas Sandby [q. v.], was born at Nottingham in 1725. The brothers obtained appointments in the military drawing department at the Tower of London in 1741, and Paul was employed, after the suppression of the rebellion in 1745–6, to assist in the military survey of the new line of road to Fort George, and of the northern and western parts of the Highlands, under the direction of Colonel David Watson. He was afterwards appointed draughtsman to the survey, and his drawings presented to the board of ordnance, as specimens of his ability for the post, are now in the print-room of the British Museum. They include a sketch of the east view of Edinburgh Castle, with many figures in the foreground. While employed on the survey he made a large number of sketches of scenes and well-known persons in and about Edinburgh, sixty-eight of which are also in the museum print-room. He made many others of the scenery and antiquities of Scotland, and etched two small landscapes (1747–8), a set of six small landscapes (1748), and ten views of Scotland (1750). He quitted the service of the survey in 1751, and took up his abode for a time with his brother Thomas at Windsor, where the latter was now installed as deputy ranger of the Great Park. His next etchings—eight folio views of Edinburgh and other places in Scotland—are inscribed ‘Windsor, August 1751.’ At Windsor he assisted his brother, and made a series of drawings of the castle, the town, and its neighbourhood, which were purchased by Sir Joseph Banks. Some of these form part of the large collection of his drawings in the royal library at Windsor. He now etched a great number of plates after his own drawings, a hundred of which (including the views of Edinburgh, &c.) were published in a volume (1765) by Ryland and Bryer. In 1760 he issued twelve etchings of ‘The Cries of London.’ He also made many plates after other artists, including his brother. He etched David Allan's illustrations to Ramsay's ‘Gentle Shepherd’ (1758); a year or two later, in conjunction with Edward Rooker, engraved those by John Collins to Tasso's ‘Jerusalem Delivered,’ and in 1761 he published ‘Eight Views in North America and the West Indies,’ from drawings by Governor Thomas Pownall [q. v.] and others.

It was Hogarth's ‘Analysis of Beauty’ which provoked his first attempts at caricature. In 1753 and 1754 he published anonymously several single plates, in which he tried, with more animus than success, to turn Hogarth's weapons against that great satirist himself. Hogarth's pretensions as an arbiter of taste, his want of education, his contempt of the old masters, his opposition to public academies, which was probably the prime cause of Sandby's animosity, his attempts at ‘high art’ (especially his ‘Paul before Felix’) were among the themes of Sandby's ridicule. The caricatures included a parody of Hogarth's ‘March to Finchley,’ and a plate called ‘The Burlesquer burlesqued,’ in which Hogarth is represented as a pug-dog painting a history piece suited to his capacity. In 1762 Hogarth's political satire, called ‘The Times,’ in support of the Bute ministry, and his consequent collision with Wilkes and Churchill, again provoked Sandby's hostility, and produced several burlesques of Hogarth's prints, including ‘A set of blocks for Hogarth's Wigs—designed for the city—see “North Briton,” No. xix.’ and ‘A Touch on the “Times,” plate i., or the “Butefyer”’ (for descriptions of Sandby's caricatures, see Cat. of Satirical Prints, in the British Museum, by F. G. Stephens). It is said that Sandby's admiration of Hogarth's genius made him withdraw his caricatures from circulation, after seeing his pictures of the ‘Marriage à-la-mode,’ but as the latter were finished and engraved as early as 1745, his repentance was rather late. Now and again, though rarely, in his after life his sense of the ridiculous or his indignation found vent in caricatures. The tax on post-horses was the cause of one in 1782, and balloon ascents (by John Sheldon and Blanchard from Chelsea, and by Lunardi from Vauxhall) of others in 1784. Perhaps the best of his works of this kind was that representing Vestris, the famous dancing-master, giving lessons to a goose. It was published on a sheet with some lively verses. But Sandby's caricatures and his many doggerel verses also were only sportive incidents in his serious career.

It is not recorded how long Sandby lived with his brother at Windsor, but he is said to have spent a portion of each year in London, and much of his time was probably spent in sketching excursions. On 3 May 1757 he married Miss Anne Stogden, a lady of much personal charm, as appears by her portrait by Francis Cotes; but his first fixed address which is recorded is at Mr. Pow's, Dufours Court, Broad Street, Carnaby Market, where he was living in 1760. In this year he contributed to the first exhibition of the Society of Artists, and was one of the forty artists who met at the Turk's Head Tavern; they agreed to meet again on 5 Nov. in the following year at the artists' feast at the Foundling Hospital, in suits of clothes manufactured by the children of the hospital at Ackworth in Yorkshire. He exhibited regularly at the society's exhibitions (1760–1768), and was one of the first directors when it was incorporated in 1765. In 1766 appeared ‘Six Views of London,’ engraved by Edward Rooker [q. v.], after drawings by himself and his brother. In 1768 he was appointed chief drawing-master at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. On the formation of the Royal Academy in 1768 he was one of the twenty-eight members nominated by George III. He often served upon the council, and was a contributor to every exhibition from 1769 to 1809, except in the eight years 1783–5, 1789, 1796, and 1803–5. In 1766 he removed to Poland Street, and in 1772 purchased No. 4 St. George's Row, Oxford Road, now 14 Hyde Park Place, where he lived till his death.

Though never a rich man, he attained by his talents, his industry, his genial manners, and lively conversation an honourable position in his profession and in society. He was a favourite of George III and Queen Charlotte. The young princes, the queen herself, Viscount Newnham (afterwards Lord Harcourt), Sir J. F. Leicester (afterwards Lord de Tabley), and the Princess Dashkoff were among his pupils. He was often employed to draw the country seats of the nobility and gentry, with whom he became on intimate terms, and many of his pupils at Woolwich remained his friends in after life. He gathered round him a circle of intellectual and attached friends, comprising the most distinguished artists and amateurs of the day. ‘His house,’ says Gandon, ‘became quite the centre of attraction, particularly during the spring and summer months, when on each Sunday, after divine service, his friends assembled, and formed a conversazione on the arts, the sciences, and the general literature of the day.’ He was kindly and generous to his professional brethren. He bought Richard Wilson's pictures when he was in distress, and he was a valuable friend to Beechey, and helped to bring David Allan, William Pars, and C. L. Clerisseau into notice by engraving their drawings.

As an artist Sandby was indefatigable; he travelled over a great part of Great Britain, sketching castles, cathedrals, and other ancient buildings of interest, and its finest scenery in days when travelling was laborious and accommodation uncertain. He visited Ireland also. He was the pioneer of topographical art in England, and all the ‘draughtsmen’ of the next generation, including Girtin and Turner, followed his footsteps. He was before them on the Clyde and in the Highlands, in Yorkshire and Shropshire, in Warwick, and in Wales. By his drawings and his engravings from them he did more than any man had done before to inform his countrymen of the beauty of their native land. This is specially true with regard to Wales, which was then almost a terra incognita. It was not till 1773 that he exhibited a drawing from the principality, but after this it was his favourite sketching ground, and he published four sets (of twelve plates each) after his Welsh drawings. The first of these (published 1 Sept. 1775) introduced to the public his new process of engraving, which he named ‘aquatinta.’ It was an improvement by himself of a process employed by Jean Baptiste Le Prince, a French painter and engraver, the secret of which had been purchased from Le Prince by the Hon. Charles Greville, and communicated to Sandby. The process was admirably adapted to imitate the effect of a drawing in sepia or indian ink, and the prints when tinted by hand very nearly resembled such watercolour drawings as were then produced. For a time it was very popular. Sandby himself published more than a hundred aquatints which are similar in size to the drawings of Turner's ‘Liber Studiorum,’ the first of which was executed in aquatint. A list of his principal plates in this method will be found in William Sandby's ‘Thomas and Paul Sandby’ (pp. 146–8).

In 1797 Sandby vacated his appointment as drawing-master at the Royal Military College at Woolwich. He received a pension of 50l. a year, and was succeeded in the post by his second son, Thomas Paul, who married his first cousin Harriott, the daughter of Thomas Sandby. This was the only one of his three children who survived him. His eldest son, Paul, was in the army, and died in 1793; his only daughter Nancy died young. He himself died at his house in Paddington on 7 Nov. 1809, and was buried in the burial-ground of St. George's, Hanover Square, where his tomb is still preserved.

Sandby has been called ‘the father of water-colour art. Certainly, as contemporary with Taverner, an amateur, and Lambert, and as preceding Hearne, Rooker, Malton, Byrne, and Webber by more than twenty years, he may claim that title by priority’ (Redgrave, Century of Painters). He may claim it also in virtue of the extent of his influence. Before his time watercolour was used only to tint monochrome drawings. The colours employed were few and poor, and had to be manufactured by the artists themselves. Sandby was constantly making experiments in pigments and manipulation, and greatly improved the technique of the art. He showed the capacity of watercolour to render effects of light and air which had scarcely been attempted in the medium before, and he treated his subjects with an artistic feeling unknown to the ‘draughtsman’ of his day. He also painted landscape (generally ‘classical’ compositions) in tempera and oils. His works show much personal observation of nature, especially in trees and skies. He also drew portraits on a small scale in chalk and watercolour, which have often the grace and simplicity of Gainsborough. A large number of such portraits and sketches of figures are contained in a folio volume in the royal library at Windsor. Among them are portraits of Kitty Fisher, James Gandon the architect, Allan Ramsay the poet, George Morland the painter, and Jonathan Wild, several of himself and his wife, and many others of persons of distinction both male and female. Many of Sandby's drawings, as those of the ‘Encampments in Hyde Park’ (1780), which are also at Windsor, are enlivened by groups of well-known characters of the time. Several interesting portraits are also included in the large collection of the works of both the Sandbys which has been formed by Mr. William Sandby, their biographer, and the last of the family to bear the name. Many of his works are at the South Kensington Museum and in other public galleries throughout the country. A large collection of the works of Paul and Thomas Sandby was exhibited at the Nottingham Museum in 1884.

[Thomas and Paul Sandby, by William Sandby (1892), contains an exhaustive account of the lives of both brothers.]

C. M.