Paul Sandby

A Lady Seated at a Window


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Not on display

Paul Sandby c.1730–1809
Graphite on paper
Support: 155 × 100 mm
Presented by Miss Mary Louise Archibald 2017


The mood of this pencil study of a young woman seated at a window is domestic or intimate. She could be a family member, or, positioned as she is with the light behind her, perhaps one of Sandby’s various female pupils, taking a moment’s rest from drawing or painting. Her dress probably dates her to the 1760s. One of the foremost British topographical and landscape artists of his generation, Sandby first came to prominence as draughtsman to the Survey of the Highlands in 1747. Later work included spectacular views of Windsor Castle and its environs, and landscapes in oil or gouache exhibited at the Royal Academy. Whatever its subject, his work is notable for its lively, well-observed figures.

Learning to draw the human figure was once a crucial part of an artist’s education, with students progressing from casts of antique sculpture to the live model. Established artists continued to practise and refine their figure drawing, attending or sometimes teaching in the life class. As a founding member of the Royal Academy in 1768, Sandby was committed to its regimen of figure drawing but he was also an enthusiastic practitioner himself, making many individual and group figure studies, often from life, to develop the skills and imagery that enabled him to animate his landscape and topographical subjects – his main speciality – with lively figures and narrative. As one of the most sought-after drawing masters of his day, with pupils including members of the royal family and nobility, he made drawing the figure and copying portraits part of the curriculum along with landscape and watercolour. His own figure drawings were sometimes made during his classes or indeed depict his pupils.

Further reading
Luke Herrmann, Paul and Thomas Sandby, exhibition catalogue, Victoria and Albert Museum, London 1986.

David Blayney Brown
April 2017

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