The art of Paul Sandby, one of the founders of the Royal Academy

Paul Sandby is possibly not a household name but he was a very skilled and influential artist in the 18th century and one of the founders of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Although Sandby was born in Nottingham and was baptised there in 1731, he lived and worked in London for a number of years from 1745.  As a young adult he secured a position in the military drawing department at the Tower of London. After the Jacobite uprising of 1745 was put down, Sandby was hired to assist in the military survey of the new road to Fort George as well as the northern and western parts of the Highlands. This work was carried out under the direction of Colonel David Watson. After some time, he was given the role of draughtsman on the survey.

During the time that he was working on this commission, which included drawing up plans for new bridges and fortifications, he also began producing watercolour landscapes that documented the changes that had taken place in Scotland since the rebellion. He also began making sketches of events that took place in Scotland, such as the execution of soldier-turned-forger John Young in Edinburgh in 1751.

In 1751, he resigned his position with the survey and moved in with his brother, who at the time was serving as the Deputy Ranger of Windsor Great Park where he created a number of drawings of the castle, the town, and the area surrounding it. Other artists, such as Thomas Gainsborough, praised his abilities.

In addition to this, he etched a significant number of plates based on his own drawings. One hundred of these plates, which included views of Edinburgh, were published in a volume in the year 1765. In the year 1760, he published The Cries of London in the form of twelve etchings. In addition to that, he copied the styles of many other artists, including his brother.  Between the years 1753 and 1754, he secretly published a series of single caricatures that made fun of William Hogarth. 

It is not known how long Sandby lived with his brother at Windsor; however, it is said that he spent part of each year in London, where he most likely spent the majority of his time drawing excursions. 

In the year 1760, he provided work for the very first exhibition held by the Society of Artists. He was one of the first directors of the Royal Academy when it was incorporated in 1765 and exhibited regularly with the society until the foundation of the Royal Academy eight years later. In 1768, he was given the position of chief drawing master at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, which he held until 1799. During that time, he was in charge of teaching students how to draw.  During the same year that the Royal Academy was established, in 1768, George III chose him to be one of the 28 founding members of the institution. He served on its council frequently and contributed to all of the exhibitions held between 1769 and 1809, with the exception of eight of them. 

On November 7, 1809, he passed away at his home in Paddington, and he was laid to rest in the cemetery of St. George’s, which is located in Hanover Square.

St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, and the Entrance to the Singing Men’s Cloister
Bayswater – London
Old Bridge at Shrewsbury (1772)
London Cries; ‘A Girl with a Basket of Oranges’ (ca. 1759)

London Cries; A Fishmonger (ca. 1759)

London Cries; A Fishmonger (ca. 1759)
Windsor Castle from Datchet Lane on a rejoicing night, 1768

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