When Millais produced his picture Sir Isumbras at the Ford, with the knight and two children seated on a somewhat oversized horse, Frederick Sandys, then a young man of 25, gained instant fame by drawing a caricature, showing Millais as the knight and Rossetti and Holman Hunt as the children, sitting on a donkey branded 'J.R.' for John Ruskin. This picture so impressed Rossetti, that he introduced the younger man into his circle, and they became close friends for many years.
Sandys painted oils in the Pre-Raphaelite style, his work being characterised by quality of draughtsmanship and a penchant for femmes fatales. Often the people in his pictures have a 'Sandys sneer' - this occurs even in allegorical pictures such as Spring, now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
As well as painting, Sandys gained an enormous reputation as an illustrator of books and magazines during the 1860s, despite producing relatively few drawings - 25 in total. Like the other Pre-Raphaelites, he treated each illustration as a major artwork. With an unsurpassed control of line, Sandys, along with Millais, is deemed the most successful of the group in woodcut illustration.
Sandys's sister Emma Sandys was also an artist, sending works to the Royal Academy in the late 1860s and early 1870s.
Pictures by Sandys include Medea and Morgan le Fay in the Birmingham City Art Gallery, Helen of Troy in the Manchester City Art Gallery and Spring in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. In the Norwich Museum, there is a collection of several portraits by Sandys, and one large outdoors scene called Autumn. His Mary Magdalene is in America, in Delaware.
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