He is known for his beautiful views of Windsor, providing a fascinating insight into life at the Castle during the reign of George III (17601820). Now, 250 years later, a portrait miniature of Paul Sandby (17311809), 'the father of English watercolour', has gone on display in a new exhibition at Windsor Castle and return the artist to the royal residence where he made his name. One of only a few known images of the artist, the miniature has been acquired by The Royal Collection Trust for the Royal Collection, which holds one of the world's largest groups of work by Paul Sandby and his older brother Thomas. The miniature is being shown alongside some of Paul Sandby's most famous views. The exhibition, Capturing the Castle: Watercolours of Windsor by Paul and Thomas Sandby, includes 20 works produced from the 1760s to the 1790s by the two brothers. They reveal the informality of daily life at Windsor during the reign of George III, who used the Castle as an occasional country retreat for his growing family. The exhibition opened on Friday, 7 February.
Despite his successful career as one of the founding members of the Royal Academy, Paul Sandby was rarely painted himself. A half-length portrait, the miniature shows Sandby at the age of 56 against a landscape with Windsor Castle in the background. He wears a blue coat, white waistcoat and cravat, and holds a porte-crayon, used for drawing with pieces of chalk, and an open sketchbook. The miniature was painted in 1787 by the Jersey-born artist Philip Jean (17051802), who also produced portraits of the British royal family, including George III and his consort Queen Charlotte.
Born in Nottingham, Paul Sandby arrived at Windsor in the early 1750s, following Thomas's employment as Draughtsman to William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (uncle to George III), who had been appointed the Ranger of Windsor Great Park in 1746. The brothers set about producing views of the Castle from numerous angles and viewpoints, creating an unrivalled visual record of the building and surrounding area.
The watercolours record soldiers chatting with the townsfolk, street traders hawking their wares, and elegantly dressed visitors strolling along the North Terrace and admiring the views across the Thames Valley. One particularly noticeable difference between the 18th-century Castle and that today is documented in the Sandbys' watercolours in The Quadrangle, Windsor Castle, looking west, c.1765, the iconic Round Tower appears significantly lower. It was heightened by some nine metres (30ft) 65 years later, as part of the George IV's remodelling of the Castle. Gothic-style battlements and a flag turret were added, creating Windsor Castle's now world-famous skyline.
Today Windsor Castle welcomes well over one million visitors a year. Guidebooks dating from the 18th century, on display in the exhibition, reveal that the Castle was a popular destination some 250 years ago. The Precincts were open to the public, and access to the State Apartments was granted upon application to the Housekeeper. A free app, Capturing Windsor Castle: Watercolours by Paul and Thomas Sandby, allows visitors to see the Castle through the eyes of the Sandbys and compare the appearance of the Castle then and now.
Today, there are around 550 works by the Sandby brothers in the Royal Collection. Although the majority of the works were acquired in the early 19th century by George III's son, George IV, the collection was added to by later monarchs and acquisitions made by Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and more recently by Her Majesty The Queen. All can be enjoyed online at www.royalcollection.org.uk
Exhibition curator Rosie Razzall of Royal Collection Trust said, 'Windsor Castle is where Paul Sandby made his name as one of the greatest artists of the 18th century, so it is fitting that this rare and beautiful portrait miniature will go on display at the Castle alongside some of his finest works.'