Michael Sandle was born in Weymouth, Dorset. His father was serving in the Royal Navy, and he was christened on HMS Ark Royal. His family's home in Plymouth was bombed in the Second World War, and he grew up on the Isle of Man, where his father had been stationed in 1942. From 1951 to 1954 he studied at Douglas School of Art and Technology on the Isle of Man, and was then conscripted for two years' National Service in the Royal Artillery.
After attending evening classes at Chester College of Art, he studied printmaking in London at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1956 to 1959, where he was taught etching by Anthony Gross and etching by Lynton Lamb and Ceri Richards. He was also taught by Andrew Forge, Lucian Freud and Claude Rogers.
After travelling to Italy and Paris Sandle taught at various British art schools in the 1960s. Originally a painter and draftsman, in the 1960s he gravitated towards sculpture.
From 1970 to 1973 Sandle lived in Canada, where he was a visiting associate professor at the University of Calgary until 1971 and at the University of British Columbia from 1971 to 1972.
In 1973 he moved to Germany, and taught in Pforzheim and Berlin. He became professor of sculpture at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Karlsruhe in 1980.
From 1976 to 1982 Sandle was a member of the faculty of engraving at the British School in Rome. In 1982 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and in 1989 a full Academician.
After moving to Devon he returned to London in 2003.
Two of his smaller sculptural works – described as "anti-memorial" - are held by the Tate Gallery, "A Twentieth Century Memorial" (1971-8) (originally entitled "A Mickey-Mouse Machine-Gun Monument for Amerika") and one of the five casts of his work "Der Trommler" (The Drummer) (1985, cast 1987).
His public works include: a memorial (1985) to the victims of the crash of a U.S. Army CH-47 in Mannheim during the city's Aeronautical Days on 11 September 1982; a large bronze statue of St George and the Dragon (1987–8) for a public square in Dorset Rise, London; the International Seafarer's Memorial (2001), outside the headquarters of the International Maritime Organisation on the Albert Embankment in London; decorative plaques for a new building, La Colomberie in Saint Helier, under the Percent for Art scheme; and the Malta Siege Memorial (1989–93), at the entrance to the Grand Harbour in Valletta, for which he was awarded the Henry Hering Memorial Medal by the US National Sculpture Society. The Malta Siege Memorial includes a thirteen-tonne bronze bell, "Santa Maria", one of the largest ever forged, which rings for two minutes every midday.
He also worked on an unrealised project for the Battle of Britain Monument with Theo Crosby and Pedro Guedes in 1987. The plans for the 500 ft monument near Surrey Docks include a hollow pyramid containing laser-generated holograms and sounds recalling the Blitz, topped by sculptures of a Heinkel bomber and a Spitfire.
He has exhibited at the 5th Paris Biennale, the Sao Paulo Biennial, and the 4th and 6th Documenta in Kassel. Examples of his works are held by the Tate Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, the Hakone Museum in Japan, and the British Museum. A major retrospective of his work was held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1988 and then at the Wurttembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart in 1989.
He designed the Belgrano Medal in 1986, which shows Margaret Thatcher, with the inscription "Imperatrix Impudens" ("Shameless Empress").
He has been the recipient of a number of awards including the Abbey Travel Award; a French State Scholarship; the Rodin Grand Prize, Japan's most prestigious contemporary art award, in 1986, Nobutaka Shikanai Prize, Japan; Major Prize 7th International Sculpture Exhibition, Hungary; and a DAAD Research Grant. He is a selector for The Threadneedle Prize for painting and sculpture in 2010.
He was elected as a member of the Royal Academy in 1989, and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1994. He resigned from the Royal Academy in 1997 in protest at the Sensation exhibition and the inclusion of Marcus Harvey's painting Myra, but rejoined in 2005.
He won the Hugh Casson Drawing Prize for his Iraq Triptych, a drawing showing Tony and Cherie Blair naked, exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2007.1981 "Sculpture for a Trades School", Mühlacker, Germany
1985 "Memorial to the Victims of a Helicopter Disaster", Mannheim, Germany (commemorating the victims killed when a U.S. Army CH-47 crashed during the city's Aeronautical Days on 11 September 1982)
1986 "Belgrano Medal – a Medal of Dishonour", British Art Medallic Society
1988-92 Malta Siege Memorial, Grand Harbour, Valletta
1987 "Woman for Heidelberg", Kopf Klinik, Heidelberg, Germany
1988 "St. George & the Dragon", Blackfriars, London
1992 "St Margaret", The Pearl Assurance Head Offices, Peterborough
1997 "The Viking", Port Erin Arts Centre, Isle of Man
2001 International Maritime Organization Seafarers' Memorial, Albert Embankment, London
2002 Memorial to Lifeboatmen, Marine Gardens, Douglas, Isle of Man
1986 Nobutaka Shikanai prize, 1st Rodin Grand Prize Exhibition, Utsukushi-gahara Open Air Museum, Japan
1987 Prize-winner in 7th International Small Sculpture Exhibition, Budapest, Hungary
1989 Korn/Ferry Award, Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition
1995 Henry Hering Memorial Medal (for Malta Siege Memorial) National Sculpture Society of America
2004-6 Kenneth Armitage Fellowship
2007 Hugh Casson Drawing Prize, Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition