Published: January 27, 2004
Colonial Williamsburg’s De-Witt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum will display a selection of prints by Paul Sandby (1723-1809), considered one of the most influential English landscape artists working during the latter half of the Eighteenth Century. “Subtlety in Sepia: Prints by Paul Sandby” will be on display from January 31 through December 2006.
Highlights of the exhibition will include four views by Sandby and Scottish painter Archibald Robertson (1765-1835) depicting scenes in and near Naples, Italy. These works allowed Sandby and Robertson to experiment with sepia tones and the aquatint process to recreate the light qualities of southern Italy. Also on display will be a circa 1763 black-and-white mezzotint engraving of Sandby by English portrait artist Edward Fisher.
Sandby is best known for his work in watercolor and gouache; however, he also was the first professional artist to use the aquatint technique of printmaking. He described the process in an article titled, “A Mode of Imitating Drawing on Copper Plates Discovered by P. Sandby in the Year 1775.” Reminiscent of a watercolor wash, the effect was used primarily to tone backgrounds, the main design having been etched previously into the plate.
Sandby received training as a draftsman at the Board of Ordnance Drawing Room, located in the Tower of London, though he learned to paint from his brother, Thomas (1723-1798), architect, draftsman and deputy ranger to William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. In 1753, he joined his brother at Windsor Park and traveled throughout the English countryside and Wales painting scenes of country houses and the local topography.
Recognized for his skill at watercolor painting, he secured the patronage of the royal family and other nobility as well as the acknowledgment of his contemporaries. English landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough said of him in 1762, “With respect to real views from Nature in this County…Paul Sandby is the only man of Genius…who has employ’d his Pencil that way.”
Sandby was a founding member of the Society of Artists in England and the Royal Academy. In 1768, he was appointed chief drawing master at the prestigious Woolwich Academy, a royal military academy founded in 1741.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum is on Francis Street near Merchants Square. For information, 757-220-7724.
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