Paul Sandby RA: Picturing Britain, A Bicentenary Exhibition

Paul Sandby, Roche Abbey, Yorkshire, c.1770s. Watercolour over graphite, 300 x 588 mm. Royal Academy
Paul Sandby, Roche Abbey, Yorkshire, c.1770s. Watercolour over graphite, 300 x 588 mm. Royal Academy

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

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 mid-nineteenth 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.

OrganisationThis exhibition was organised by Nottingham City Museums and Galleries in association with Royal Academy of Arts, London

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