Past Events

Paul Sandby and the Geographies of Eighteenth-Century British Art


  • 18 to 19 March 2010
  • 6:00 – 7:30 pm
  • Royal Academy of Arts
Classical ruin in a romantic landscape

Paul Sandby, Roche Abbey, Yorkshire, ,ca.1770s, watercolour over graphite, 300 × 588 mm

Digital image courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts, London

This conference, to be held at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, will address issues arising from the exhibition Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain (Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, 25 July-18 October 2009; National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 7 November 2009-7 February 2010; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 13 March-13 June 2010).

Organised by Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, this is the first exhibition to bring together drawings, paintings and prints by this important, if neglected, artist, spanning his long career, and from all the major public collections of his works. In addressing Sandby’s vast and versatile body of work, in its figurative as well as topographical aspects, the exhibition explores how the artist portrayed the character of landscape throughout Britain, and indeed contributed to envisioning the country as a nation state from the cementing of the Act of Union with Scotland, after the failure of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, to the wars with revolutionary and Napoleonic France at the century’s end.

Through extensive tours, initially as a military draughtsman and then as a professional artist, Sandby pioneered the artistic depiction of landscape in Scotland and Wales, and searched out new sites throughout England. His art is arguably unrivalled among that of his contemporaries in its portrayal of the appearance and meaning of a range of subjects, rural and urban, modern and historical, in a country experiencing rapid social and commercial development.