Frederick Sandys

Appendix I: Joseph Pennell On Frederick Sandys

In 1865, there must have been almost as many good illustrated magazines published in England alone as there are today in the whole world. Besides Good Words, the Cornhill, and Once a Week, there were London Society, the Shilling Magazine, the Argosy, and the Quiver. The uniform edition of Dickens was also being issued; illustrated by C. Green, Luke Fildes, Marcus Stone, J. Mahoney and F. Barnard.

F. Sandys is, in imaginative power, the greatest of all these artists; in technique he is the legitimate successor of Durer, in popularity he is a hopeless failure. He has never illustrated a book: so far as I know, so made but few drawings specially for books: these few are contained in Willmot’s Sacred Poetry, 1863, Life’s Journey. the Little Mourner. and Dalziel’s Bible Gallery.

Harald Harfagr
Harald Harfagr.
In 1861, a number of his drawings were printed in Once a Week: Yet Once More Let the Organ Play, Three Statues of Ægina, and others. In every one is seen the hand of the man able to carry on the tradition of Durer, and yet bring it into line with modern methods. So far as I am aware, Ruskin never mentions him; how far this was owing to the famous Sir Isumbras caricature, The Nightmare, I do not know. All the spirit of early German art breathes through his drawings.
But it is during the next year, 1862, that Sandys, becoming accustomed to the wood-block, did some of his most powerful work: The Old Chartist, Harold, and King Warwulf, in Once a Week. In The Old Chartist there is the real Dürer feeling in the distant landscape, but the trees are better than Dürer’s trees, and the figure is one that Sandys has seen for himself. But in all his work there is this evidence of things seen and studied.

1862 was his most productive year; in 1863 there are but four drawings; none in 1864; in 1865, a magnificent Amor Mundi, for Miss Rossetti’s poem, printed in the April number of the Shilling Magazine. After that there are only one or two, and then he disappears. There are many drawings by him on paper, but it is safe to say no man who did so few drawings on wood ever made such a reputation. True, Whistler only did four in Once a Week (1861-2), among them the charming design printed in this article, but he was known as an etcher and painter at the time.