Monday, 10 May 2010

Paul Sandby at the RA

As a distraction from politics, I recommend a lovely small exhibition at the Royal Academy.   The 18thC watercolourist Paul Sandby's skilful, detailed landscapes chronicle a world that was on the edge of disappearing.   He painted a peaceful, pastoral Britain with a clarity of observation and a fascination with ordinary life that were soon to vanish as the Romantic movement took over.   Look closely at the figures he depicts, people going about their daily life among their animals and their tools of trade, their clothes and gestures lovingly portrayed, as they move through scenes of village and country, terraces and trees.

The North Terrace, Windsor Castle, Looking West

Paul Sandby, and his elder brother Thomas, both founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768, were employed by the King to paint views of Windsor Castle and the Park, where Thomas was a Deputy Ranger, and many of these works from the Royal Collection are shown here at Burlington House.   He was also an engraver and a satirist, and his watercolours, serene as they appear, make it clear that he knew he was observing huge social change.

He is generally known as 'the father of English watercolour painting' (which is a peculiarly English medium), but he is much more than just a topographer.   I guarantee that an hour spent among his beautiful and luminous works will calm the spirit and make it easier to face the hurly-burly of doubt and worry which we are currently undergoing.

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