14.07.2020 by Charles Burns
Samuel Andrews’ rather ghostly white en-grisaille cameos occupy that strange overlap between silhouette and portrait miniature.Some love them while others find them rather creepy. Technically, a soon as an artist paints the face, they are no longer working in silhouette. However, he was one of the artists I looked at while developing my own range of en-grisaille portraits.
For this reason I regard him as one of my teachers and run some of my virtual studio days in tribute to this artist. The last was on 11th November 2021.
Samuel Andrews was born in Ireland, but began his career in Bath, England around 1780, aged just 13. He continued working until his death in 1807 at the age of 40. He spent much of his short life in India, having moved there in 1791. This is where he produced most of his portraits, many of whom depict members of the ruling British Raj in India.
After his move to India he became a follower of John Smith, a miniaturist working there at the time. He worked initially in Madras before later moving to Calcutta.
Samuel Andrews is mostly known for his en-grisaille profiles. These demonstrate an extraordinary attention to detail, particularly in his use pf highlights and shadows. He began by painting the backgrounds in a dark brownish grey, outlining the profile as he did so. He then used variously thinned versions of the same paint to odd face and clothing details. Finally, he added touches of white paint to highlight his sitters’ hair and clothing.
At first these cameos look as it they are modelled in relief. It’s only on close inspection that the bush work becomes clear. His style developed over his career (which was surprisingly long considering he died so young) with obvious improvements in his depiction of dress by the early 1800s.
Samuel Andrew’s work is popular amongst collectors and remains highly sought after today. He doesn’t seem to have used a trade label of any sort. The profiles illustrated are unsigned but have an inscription on the back reading “by S. Andrews of Bath and Calcutta”.