Wilson Online Reference
Sandby 1862
William Sandby
The History of the Royal Academy of Arts from its Foundation in 1768 to the present Time
Longman, Roberts & Green
London, UK
Date of Publication
Secondary published
More Information
In 2 vols. Facsimile vols were published by Cornmarket Press, London in 1970. The author was the last descendant of Wilson's friend and supporter, the artist Paul Sandby, to bear the family name. Wilson is referred to in vol. 1 on pp. 43 & 188; a memoir of his life is on pp. 106-9. Some general legends and misunderstandings are repeated but there are also some useful, though not necessarily original, comments (see Text below).
Full Text
Notable extracts from the text: Thomas Sandby, Deputy-Ranger of Windsor Park, obtained from the Ranger, William, Duke of Cumberland, a commission for Wilson to paint the 'Niobe' for his Royal Highness [P90], which was afterwards engraved by Woollett. [vol.1, p.107] [...] [Wilson's] irritability of temper, unfortunately, was never under control, and led to much of the distress and neglect which saddened many subsequent years of this talented artist's life. There seems to have been an antipathy approaching to dislike between him and Reynolds - the one rough in manner and avoiding the society of his brother artists, - the other courtly and refined, and fond of social intercourse: and it is reported that when Reynolds once proposed inadvertently in Wilson's presence, the health of Gainsborough, as the best landscape painter, poor Wilson angrily added, as a retort - 'and the best portrait painter too!' [p. 107] [...] Paul Sandby offered him an advance of price on a large number of his sketches, and led him to suppose that he could find purchasers for them; but although he paid him for them, as they were executed, he could not dispose of them, and they remained in his possession long after Wilson's death, and were sold many years afterwards by his son, T.P. Sandby, at a time when Wilson's drawings were beginning to be estimated as they deserved. [pp. 107-8] [..] He shifted his abode from time to time, as he found his means contract by the decline of patronage. Thus from Covent Garden Piazza, he removed to Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square; thence to Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields; then to Foley Place, and lastly, to a wretched lodging in Tottenham Street, Tottenham Court Road. [p. 108] [...] Since his death his genius has been universally acknowledged, and his works held in high repute; but the taste for classic landscape and for the poetical conceptions of nature which his pictures displayed was not created in his own day, although in choice of subject, felicity in the distribution of light and shade, and freshness and harmony of tints, he was scarcely excelled by any of his more fortunate contemporaries. [pp. 108-9] [...] It is not exactly known why he [William Peters R.A.] abandoned painting as a profession, as personally he did not lack patronage or lucrative employment. But it is said that a lady of rank asked him to recommend to her a good landscape painter, and that, knowing Wilson's need of employment, he at once named him to her, and obtained a commission for two pictures: when he made known his success to Wilson, the poor artist confessed his utter inability even to purchase canvas and colours to execute the task; and Peters was so saddened by seeing Wilson, with all his genius, nearly starving, that he at once resolved to renounce art as a profession. [p. 188]