NORFOLK Museums Service
Frederick Sandys, 'Rosamund, Queen of the Lombards' © Norwich Castle Museum

Telling Tales

Many of Sandys’ paintings tell a story. He was known as a good storyteller at parties and, unsurprisingly, was drawn to subjects that were dramatic and exciting for his paintings.

During the 1860s Sandys illustrated stories and poems published in weekly magazines and periodicals. The Victorian public loved reading. Authors such as Charles Dickens and Thackeray were some of the most popular. Their stories featured strong characters and storylines with several highly dramatic moments or ‘cliffhangers’ throughout the book.

Sandys’ illustrations are similar to these types of novel – he tended to choose moments of great drama that represented an important point of the story. He focuses in on the main character, showing his or her reaction to the events. The many details in the background of the illustrations help us to decide what has happened and to guess what might happen in the future.

Sandys’ illustrations accompany the text of a story or poem – people would know the story behind the image. But these images do not just show what is going on – they help to suggest and create the mood of the story as well, firing the reader’s imagination and becoming relevant to the whole tale rather than just one incident within it.

Read more