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William Alexander (1767-1816)

William Alexander (1767-1816)

William Alexander was the only English artist of the late eighteenth century to penetrate the interior of China. As a result, he became well known for his images of the country at a time when Chinoiserie was all the rage. Admired as a technician, he worked as drawing master until 1808, when he accepted a position as one of the first curators at the British Museum.

William Alexander was born in Maidstone, Kent, on 10 April 1767, the son of a coachbuilder. Educated at Maidstone Grammar School, he showed a talent for drawing at an early age. In 1782, he moved to London to study art, and may have taken lessons with Julius Caesar Ibbetson before entering the Royal Academy Schools two years later.

Ibbetson had taken part on the first – abortive – British mission to Beijing.

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