Frederick Sandys - Encyclopedia




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FREDERICK SANDYS (1832-1904), English painter and draughtsman, was born at Norwich on the 1st of May 1832, and received his earliest lessons in art from his father, who was himself a painter. His early studies show that he had a natural gift for careful and beautiful drawing, and that he sought after absolute sincerity of presentment. Sandys worked along the same lines as Millais, Madox Brown, Holman Hunt and Rossetti. He first met Rossetti in 1857, and carried away with him the impression of the painter-poet's features, which he reproduced so cleverly in "A Nightmare," a caricature of "Sir Isumbras at the Ford," by Millais. Both the picture and the skit upon it by Sandys attracted much attention in 1857. The caricaturist turned the horse of Sir Isumbras into a donkey labelled "J. R., Oxon." (John Ruskin). Upon it were seated Millais himself, in the character of the knight, with Rossetti and Holman Hunt as the two children, one before and one behind. Rossetti and Sandys became intimate friends, and for about a year and a quarter, ending in the summer of 1867, Sandys lived with Rossetti at Tudor House (now called Queen's House) in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. By this time Sandys was known as a painter of remarkable gifts. He had begun by drawing for Once a Week, the Cornhill Magazine, Good Words and other periodicals. He drew only in the magazines. No books illustrated by him can be traced. So his exquisite draughtsmanship has to be sought for in the old bound-up periodical volumes which are now hunted by collectors, or in publications such as Dalziel's Bible Gallery and the Cornhill Gallery and books of drawings, with verses attached to them, made to lie upon the drawing-room tables of those who had for the most part no idea of their merits. Every drawing Sandys made was a work of art, and many of them were so faithfully engraved that they are worthy of the collector's portfolio. Early in the 'sixties he began to exhibit the paintings which set the seal upon his fame. The best known of these are "Vivien" (1863), "Morgan le Fay" (1864), "Cassandra" and "Medea." Sandys never became a popular painter. He painted little, and the dominant influence upon his art was the influence exercised by lofty conceptions of tragic power. There was in it a sombre intensity and an almost stern beauty which lifted it far above the ideals of the crowd. The Scandinavian Sagas and the Morte d'Arthur gave him subjects after his own heart. "The Valkyrie" and "Morgan le Fay" represent his work at its very best. He made a number of chalk drawings of famous men of letters, including Tennyson, Browning, Matthew Arnold, and James Russell Lowell. Sandys died in Kensington on the 10th of June 1904.

See also Esther Wood, The Artist (Winter number, 1896).

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