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Height: 284.000 mm
Width: 448.000 mm
Prints and Drawings
William Alexander, Pingze Men, the Western Gate of Beijing, a watercolour drawing
Dated AD 1799
William Alexander (1767-1816) accompanied Lord
Macartney's embassy to visit the Chinese Emperor in Beijing
from 1792 to 1794. From numerous sketches he made during his stay,
he painted this
Chinese peasants populate the scene, going about their business while guards are visible on the towering, thick walls. Below, a junk passes under the bridge in a procession of trading boats. Until the 1950s, when the bridge and the walls were demolished, this busy gate was the main western gate of Beijing (formerly Peking). The bridge in the foreground still stands.
William Alexander became the first Keeper of Prints and Drawings at The British Museum in 1808, not through any great knowledge and connoisseurship of prints or drawings but due to his skills as a draughtsman. The Trustees wanted engravings of the Townley Collection of classical sculptures, and the first Print Room was housed in a room in the Townley Wing. Alexander was said to have been a charming and friendly man to those who visited the collection.
L. Stainton, British landscape watercolours (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)
M. Jacobs, The painted voyage: art, trave (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
S. Legouix and P. Conner, William Alexander: an English (Brighton Art Gallery and Museum, 1981)
S. Legouix, Image of China: William Alexan (Jupiter Books, 1980)