Lee discussing Madame X

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About Lee Sandstead

Art historian Lee Sandstead is author of the #1 iTunes international best-seller Cleaning Mona Lisa and host of Travel Channel's Art Attack with Lee Sandstead.


Lee discovered art in his early 20s, and ever since, he has been on one amazing art adventure after another—from exploring the world’s greatest museums to summiting Albert Bierstadt's Mt. Rosalie to walking over 2,200 miles through portions of France, Portugal and Spain along the medieval pilgrimage trail Camino de Santiago to document ecclesiastical art and architecture. 

He was host of Travel Channel's Art Attack with Lee Sandstead, which secured a Daytime Emmy nomination. In this series of thrilling TV documentaries, Lee and crew travelled to various museums around the United States examining each museum’s five, must-see artworks in an informative, entertaining manner.

Lee has long been a pioneer in new technologies in the art-history classroom, and with the release of his #1 best-selling iBook Cleaning Mona Lisa, Lee continues to use technology in the communication of art.  He is author of the forthcoming book on art appreciation entitled Artward Bound: Tales from the Trail of the World's Most Fired-Up Art Historian and a biography on American master-sculptor Evelyn Beatrice Longman (1874-1954).

For the past 15 years, Lee has developed a national reputation as an exciting and dramatic speaker and has expressed his passion for art at over 200 major university and museum institutions including: Harvard, Yale, New York University, Columbia University, The Smithsonian Institution, The Birmingham Museum of Art, The Walters Art Museum, Ole Miss, Virginia Commonwealth University, Tufts University, University of Washington, University of Virginia, The University of Kentucky, Duke University, Virginia Tech, Penn State, The Chrysler Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, University of Toronto, George Mason University, University of Memphis, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, etc.

Most recently, he is endeavoring to deliver keynotes to each state’s annual art-education conference.  In these talks, Lee tries his best to get his audience—often embattled by budget cuts and unsympathetic bureaucracies--fired up for art once again.

He is also one of America's most-prolific photographers of art, and his photography has been published in countless books, websites and publications around the world, including: The New York Times; The Times UK, Fortune; Ms.; Preservation Magazine; and Style 1900.  His collection of interior photography of over 1,300 New York City mausoleums is being donated to Columbia University's architecture library. This collection shows that Lee has literally traveled where no other art historian has traveled before.

Lee has been a university professor for the past 15 years; teaching at notable universities such as: Montclair State University, State University of New York and City College.  Recently, Lee led a team to establish art-history and fine-arts programs for a small college in Southern Virginia, and he was nominated for the prestigious Virginia Governor's Arts Award. 

After living for many years in New York City, Lee now lives in the moutains of Virginia with his wife and dog where he writes, continues to lecture, gives tours and rides his bicycle.

Praise for Lee Sandstead

On teaching and talks:

"Just wanted to say thanks for a great show, our teachers really enjoyed your presentation. It was such a welcome change from many of the drier presentations we've had in recent years. I only hope you enjoyed your visit half as much as we did."

"My mother, my daughter-in-law and I were at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley last evening for your 6:00 talk - I believe I was the fourth youngest in the crowd, followed by you, my daughter-in-law and some child across the aisle.  :)  I just wanted to tell you how much I truly enjoyed myself.  I never looked at it this way but you were right when you said that, as Americans, we talk constantly about all art other than American art.  I've been in the basement of the l'Orangerie to see the Waterlilies but I've never been to the Met, although I started planning that trip in my head halfway through your presentation!  I'm inspired to find small museums in Virginia and see where I land so I guess you could say your mission has been accomplished in Winchester.  Thanks for your exciting perspective on American art and for taking us all along!"

"I love this man . . . I've taken his Contemporary Art and Renaissance to Modern Art classes at MSU and he has made both exciting and enjoyable. His lectures are, to use one of his favorite words, profound. Seriously, take his Contemporary Art class and you will never look at a corner the same way."

"I was feeling really tired from getting up @ 5AM, working all day as a nurse and not sure I could muster the energy to come from WV to Winchester tonight for your talk. SO glad I did!  I was asked to prepare a program on Ethics and Praise for all managers of the medical center where I work...morale is down, health care is a hard place to work.  I wondered "why did they ask ME" to do this, what do I have that set me apart from others in administration?  Passion, insider-ship, and the ability to "sell" it! Thank-you for this insight!  I might add that all the way back to WV I followed a red truck (I kid you not!) and I thought...we should all follow our "red truck" and see where it leads...to roads, places and people unimaginable.  Thanks again, loved it...and got energized from it...will add you to my power point (and cite you of course!)  By the way, do I love art? YES, I am also a fiber artist and teach knitting and love the color, styling and art of it.  Happy tooling to you in your little red truck!"

"Not just one, but TWO chili peppers in my book!! What an amazing prof. with a passion for Art that I've never seen before. Loves to teach as well. DON'T BE ONE SECOND LATE! His tests are easy ONLY if you pay attention and STUDY. Not a morning person? Don't worry, he WILL wake you up! He's just simply the best! If you like art, you'll LOVE him! :-)"

"Just a thank you for your wonderful lecture at the Prizery this past thursday.   A New Yorker, or as they say down in these parts, a damn yankee (I've been here 8 years), what a pleasure it was to hear intellectual passion and view such stunning works.  As a former dancer and current teacher I have a great passion for the arts - all of them.  I was moved by all of Ms. Longman's work, but most impressed by her balance.  Her ability to have combined the Curve and linear aspects and precise detail of the human/angelic form all with superb balance stimulated my creativity.  And the ardour with which you presented her works and your own adventure, well simply put, have left me smiling and reminded me of my own passion for dance and theater.

 “It was somewhat out of my engineering expertise, education, and experience (I am retired), but I found it very interesting.  I will look at sculpture with a different prospective from henceforth!  You are indeed passionate about your subject.  I was interested and pleased to see the quality of what Founder's College is trying to do.  I envy those of you who are a part of it.”

 “I have never been to an art history lecture nor am I very familiar with visual art in general. Performing arts are where I’ve spent most of my energies thus far. I’m always looking to learn new things, though, so thanks for sharing your passion with us-much needed in this community.”

 “Indeed it was fun....very enjoyable. Thank you for doing this for our community."

"His expectations are high and he's challenging, but he'll definitely keep your attention. He has a real passion for art history and it shows in his lectures... which are LOUD. I don't think it's possible to fall asleep in this class."

"Being a native of the area, it is hard for me to be objective but I think that we are a great community; and so much potential to be so much better.  You, others like you, and all of those associated with Founders College will be a great asset in helping us reach this potential.  Thank you for being here.  I recognize, and appreciate, your passion for art....it came thru clearly in your lecture.  Karen and I would love to have lunch with you one day.”

 “I so enjoyed your presentation tonight! I was at rapt attention.”

 “You speak from the heart with passion, very impressive.  I enjoyed your classroom very much, and learning about Evelyn Beatrice Longman.”

"Hey Professor Sandstead,  It was great to see you, I really enjoyed your lecture tonight and thank you for the DVD. I have to say that even though your Contemporary Art class was Friday mornings at 8am, it was one of my favorites and probably the last really good art history class that I've taken. Despite what you may think, I don't think it was possible to fall asleep in your class. I still remember the painting you said was what made you first love art. I believe it was impressionist, with 3 young girls and something to do with ribbons in the title. I also remember the one slide that I got wrong on the final exam.  So thanks for making my experience with art history a positive one.  After I took your class, I went on to study art in Florence for a year and then I transferred to Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. I took a year off after I graduated and now I'm studying Wig and Makeup Art at the UNCSA."

"I so enjoyed your lecture last night! Your passion for art is quite apparent and you are a wonderful storyteller!  We are so pleased to have you in our area!"

"Great professor. really enjoyed class. just doesn't rely on book--brings in many different materials. you have to be in class and on time--which some students just can't get ahold of, but you know that he does has good reasons for his many rules like tardiness and truancy. Enthusiastic! Wow!"

"You have no idea how much I hate not to have been able to do the rest of your Met tours. I LOVED my experience there with you, and I was telling my wife that I wish I had an art history teacher in art  school a fraction of enthusiastic and animated as you.  You made me want to go back and dust of my books, if you ever are going do some sort of online class or online program let me know, please.  Thanks for an incredible experience."

"Thanks again for the great tour today at the Met. I think it's great and you do a fabulous job of being informative and entertaining! Can you please add me to your newsletter list? This all means so much to me. I wish I could go back to school to study art history - just not in the budget now. So your tours are extra special to me. Thank you!!"

"I never E-mailed you to tell you how much I enjoyed the lecture tour you gave at the National Gallery of Art in DC a few weeks ago. I'm the one who discovered, thanks to your revelations of oil techniques, the connection between how a painting is approached and how serious music is composed--both in terms of thinking and the application of layers. I can't tell you how much my appreciation of art changed in that very instant. Beforehand I just saw art as a daub here and a daub there, eventually leading to a finished work. I had no idea that so much intent and composition went into each one, imbuing it with its own 'soul', if you will. I sincerely look forward to your next lecture at the Gallery. Thank you again so much!"

"Your class really helped me to understand Contemporary Art. I wasn't really into minimalism and post minimalism, but now that I understand it more I now can appreciate it and have grown to it. It really was a great class. Keep your teaching style as is cause it works."

"I had the pleasure of seeing you when you were here in Richmond. I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your lecture. You speak with such passion!! I think we are losing that kind of passion in this world today. I could have listened to your lecture over again. I especially love your website. I just wanted you to know that after you spoke it really inspired me to look for more profound artwork for my home. I honestly had not picked artwork based on anything other than what I thought would look interesting in my house!! Let's just say I have gone mad!! In my entry way I now have two beautiful prints. The first is Bouguereau's Cupidon and the second is Thayer's Angel. I have always had such an affection for the depiction of angels. I love these images so much, especially the Thayer. I love the strength in her face. So basically I just wanted to say thank you for opening my eyes. I now look at art in a more thoughtful way, so again, thanks for that. I especially love the artwork on your website. You should keep taking those beautiful photographs, you have such an amazing talent. I hope to see you again if you ever come to Richmond."

"We enjoyed our first stroller-tour quite a bit! I've been raised in the churches and museums of Europe, thanks to my dad, so I heard many a tour guides and art historians but your way of presentation is truly unique and very entertaining. You said you'd like people to incorporate art in their lives and although I am a regular visitor of museums,  it seems I did it so far in the wrong way. I always looked at paintings, sculptures, photographs, buildings, many faces of art as something perfect that you can admire but never bring close to you. It never occurred to me that I could relate these to my own life and compare them to my experiences in order to make them personal.  From now on, I will know how to explain art to my daughter and teach her how to look at each piece, starting with looking into herself."

"Not just one, but TWO chili peppers in my book!! What an amazing prof. with a passion for Art that I've never seen before. Loves to teach as well. DON'T BE ONE SECOND LATE! His tests are easy ONLY if you pay attention and STUDY. Not a morning person? Don't worry, he WILL wake you up! He's just simply the best! If you like art, you'll LOVE him! :-)"

"This man is awesome!!! I loved this professor, I thought art history would be boring, but he made it anything but. Very loud and hilarious, the class was easy/hard, there wasn't much work, but participation is a must. Excellent." 

"I love this man . . . I've taken his Contemporary Art and Renaissance to Modern Art classes at MSU and he has made both exciting and enjoyable. His lectures are, to use one of his favorite words, profound. Seriously, take his Contemporary Art class and you will never look at a corner the same way." 

"I heard you give your lecture down here at Virginia Tech on the "Use Value of Art".  I will be honest and say I had never really seen much value in art, but I do really like one point that you made.  The point of creating "wow's" in your day, and how you see that in art, and different aspects of your life, and how that makes your life better.  I think you might be able to get paid by some parents out there if you can get other people to clean their rooms, hah.  But yes, I'm trying to create more "wow's" in my life, (like when you see a really nice sunset or a beautiful new place).  I feel like I'd personally get more out of photographs and the feelings they convey, rather than art, but maybe that's just because I don't have enough exposure to real art."

"I was iffy on taking a Friday 8:30 class but he definitely made the class worthwhile. I never enjoyed an art history class like this one. He loves his Red Bull !!  O and don't be late, 2 of them equal an absence...n he's on TIME!!!" 

"He is boisterous man with a passion for the subject and for learning. In other words you will most likely (unless your a complete moron) pass the class. Take him! You'll wish your other professors were half as good." 

"His expectations are high and he's challenging, but he'll definitely keep your attention. He has a real passion for art history and it shows in his lectures... which are LOUD. I don't think it's possible to fall asleep in this class."

"My husband and I attended your lecture in the DC area about two months ago on The Use Value of Art (I sat in the front row and spoke with you after the lecture - I mentioned I am an art student at The Art League in Alexandria VA). Your lecture was exactly what I had been looking for a long time- how I can use art to enrich my life."

"I was at your lecture yesterday and just wanted to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed both the content and your style of presentation. I have visited your web site which was also very interesting- I especially liked the quote of alberti that you have included." 

"Professor Sandstead made art history fun and I felt like I really learned something when the semester was over. I hope to have him again for one of the other art history classes required."

"Thank you for the lecture you gave in Toronto. I have always loved art and photography, but have never thought of it in the way you described. Needless to say I think you have ruined me - or at least my finances - as I am now more than ever noticing how bare my walls and flat surfaces are."

"I dreaded taking this class - especially with all freshmen, but he made the class fun and the material a pleasure to learn. He has inspired me to work harder at my art and to work harder at school. A genuinely good guy who cares about and loves life, work, and his students." 

"He's extremely Passionate - very knowledgeable. He really just skims the surface of "profound" artworks and movements b/c of time constraints of the semester, but does a great job. Even though he might not act like it, he really CARES about his students. TAKE HIM!" 

On photography:


Lee Sandstead, you're a true artist. I enjoy everything you post on FaceBook. It's not only the knowledge of photography, it is also that you know exactly the moment when you want to take the photo. When do you sleep? You are always up at 4:00AM to capture the most beautiful sunrises. Congrats! I wish I could go and see the exhibit in person.

I love your work and enthusiasm.  Travel channel gig is great!  Glad to see you at dpreview now and then, even as much as it's deteriorated since way back when people were giving you a hard time for what you do.  I always knew your artwork photography was great and that it was difficult, too.  Didn't know how difficult until I tried to prepare an 8x10 print of a piece of my wife's needlepoint.  What could be easier, huh?  A symmetrical piece with maybe seven colors, all the same throughout.  Took me two hours to get the colors balanced approximately right, and to get the whites white throughout.

Thank you for being the inspirational dynamo that you are! I love your photography. When I envision myself as a successful historian, in my own home, raising my son in a beautiful, personalized home, in just a few years time, your prints are on the wall.

Those are spectacular shots of Fallingwater!  I have been there three times.  Nothing beats an in-person visit, but your photos come close and even exceed it in certain instances.  Specifically, with your photos I have “seen” details that I did not notice during my in-person visits.  You have done an excellent job of selecting aspects of Fallingwater to focus on.  With your photos, I can do that in an unhurried manner that is not always possible during a live visit.  Thank you.

Lee, These are stunning. I would have bet you were working for the museum and they had arranged special lighting in a studio for each piece. I never thought this quality would be achieved while on display in the museum. My hat is off to you for pulling off this level of work in what sounds like so interesting situations. Thanks for sharing.

I just wanted to say you take beautiful photos. I fell upon your site while searching photos of Frank Lloyd Wright. I looked through all of them. They are wonderful. I just thought you should know.

inspiring photos.  if only the artists could see how you've photographed their works.... I'm sure they'd be amazed and proud   thanks for sharing.

Outstanding just barely describe these pictures. White balance, exposure, set-up to capture the paintings.

Beautifully done! Excellent job of preserving color and tonality, which I am sure you know can easily go astray.

You set the standard for museum photography

Lee,  Thank you for your contribution. You show us works we will never see in our lifetime for all sorts of reasons. Distance & money being top of the list. I look forward to your adventures in 2006 & where you will take us. I saw a programme on Ovation (cable TV) on James Ivory the director of classic films such as Room with a View & Remains of the Day etc. Why does his attitude to film making remind me of your attitude to historic art. It is a combination of believability and maturity, on site/location photography and a deep passion for what you do. Success in material terms is not relevant.

Great images of the Cloisters. I found this museum very hard to photograph because many of its exhibits are poorly lit, but you didn't seem to have a problem :)  As always, Excellent !

50 years old & had first foreign holiday last September for 25 years. Went to New York, San Francisco & Las Vegas. Had the most fantastic time imaginable & came home with hundreds of memories & even more pictures. Nothing approaching your standards & the majority just snap shots. Never the less, thanks to the photos the memories will live for ever.  Whilst all 3 locations were brilliant, New York was something else again. Breathtaking is not really an adequate description. Some of your pictures produce the 'I've been there!' response & others remind me that I must return & see the bits I missed the first time.  I can't really think of a better compliment.  Always look forward to seeing more.