- Also known as
primary name: Alexander, William
- individual; curator; painter/draughtsman; British; Male
- Life dates
- 79 Berwick Street, Soho (1795)
4 Poland Street, Golden Square (c.1796-1801)
42 Newman Street, London (1798, 1801)
Royal Military College, Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire (1802-08)
British Museum (1808-1816)
- Topographical and antiquarian draughtsman, best-known for his drawings of the Macartney embassy to China in 1792-4; Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, 1808-16. Died insane. No relation of the engraver (qv)
Alexander made over two thousand sketches of China which were worked up into careful watercolour compositions and reproduced as prints in George Staunton's official account of the Macartney embassy, as well as in Alexander's own "Views of the headlands, islands, etc., taken during a voyage to, and along the eastern coast of China, in the years 1792 & 1793" (1798), his "Costume of China" (1805), and a collections of etchings entitled "Chinese Life" (1798-1805). He often made multiple versions of watercolour views of China; thirteen were exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1795 and 1804 More than twenty years after the embassy, details of Alexander's views of China were used for the decoration of Brighton Pavilion for George IV).
For a collection of eighty views, maps, portraits and drawings illustrating the Macartney Embassy, see British Library, Maps 8. Tab.C.8; for further collections of his drawings, and manuscript material, see Legouix, pp. 23 - 26.
Add Mss 8836 to 8838, his notes on engravers (according to Fagan on Woollett)
Susan Legouix, 'Image of China: William Alexander', 1980
Patrick Connor and Susan Legouix, 'William Alexander: An English Artist in Imperial China', Brighton, 1981
Stacey Sloboda, 'Picturing China: William Alexander and the visual language of Chinoiserie', British Art Journal, IX, no.2, 2008, pp. 28-36