Joseph Gandy’s life is in many respects the familiar saga of genius unrecognized. Upon his death he seemed to the world, and to himself, a failure. Having begun his career with high hopes, great imagination and exceptional talent, he ended it in a state of neglect and obscurity.
That was in 1843. A century and a half later Gandy is recognized as one of the most original figures of English romanticism.
Works such as his unearthly Pandemonium or his luminous Tomb of Merlin have a hypnotic power that no other artist could surpass – a power that he brought to bear on Sir John Soane’s bizarre ‘Monk’s Parlour’ at his renowned house-musuem in Lincoln’s Inn and on the lost masterpiece of Soane’s Bank of England in the City of London, buildings that we have come to see through Gandy’s eyes.
Brian Lukacher, the acknowledged authority on Gandy, has now written the definitive life of this architect-artist who exemplified the cultural temper of the romantic period. It is a fresh, deeply researched biography and a critical assessment of Gandy’s work in its historical context. It is a tragic story but also an inspiring one, and a significant episode in the history of the architectural imagination and the visual arts during the nineteenth century.