Date: English painter, illustrator, and draftsman, 1829–1904
Biography: Frederick Sandys was associated with the bohemian circle surrounding Dante Gabriel Rossetti from the late 1850s through the 1870s. His early works, paintings with medieval, biblical, or Arthurian subjects, were inspired as much by the work of his Pre-Raphaelite compatriots as by the fifteenth-century Flemish paintings by Jan van Eyck and others, whose work he was able to view in the private collections of his native Norfolk. Sandys was brought to the attention of the Pre-Raphaelite entourage with the publication in 1857 of his caricature A Nightmare, satirizing the association with Ruskin of Rossetti, Millais, and Hunt. Although the caricature was published anonymously, its author was soon discovered; Rossetti and Hunt seem to have taken the joke at their expense and became his friends.
By the 1860s, Sandys's mature style was fully launched, and his reputation rose. Inspired by the classical subjects of the paintings of Frederic Leighton and George Frederic Watts, his style of this period shows a marked move toward classicism. Unfortunately, this was the same period when Rossetti accused Sandys of appropriating his visual ideas. Rossetti's displeasure, undoubtedly brought on by the similarity of their styles and the competition engendered by a shared pool of collectors and patrons, led to the breaking off of their friendship.
Sandys was particularly active as an illustrator and played a premier role in the flowering of book illustration that took place in England in the 1860s. His illustrative images are striking and memorable; they stand complete as individual works of art, even when independent of the original text. Sandys also excelled as a portraitist, and this genre represents a significant portion of his oeuvre, as well as a chief source of income. By the 1870s, he had developed a unique style of portrait drawing in colored chalk, which was an end in itself. Accurate and precise to the last detail of costume, jewelry, and hairstyle, yet immensely mattering to the sitter, these images now serve as important records of costume and fashions for the period. Sandys was much in demand as a portraitist throughout the 1870s and 1880s, and he often traveled to far-flung country houses to carry out commissions, until gradually declining health took its toll. He died in much-reduced circumstances in 1904, leaving a large family to struggle on as best they could in genteel poverty.
From "Biography of Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys (1829-1904)" by Stephen Wildman, in 'Waking Dreams: The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites from the Delaware Art Museum' (Alexandria, VA: Art Services International, 2004), p. 368.