William Alexander accompanied George, Ist Earl Macartney's embassy to China, an expedition aimed at opening up that little-known land to increased trade and communication. Alexander's views of the Emperors's gardens in peking (Beijing) and other scenic curiosities attracted enormous interest at Royal Academy exhibitions in the late 1790s, reaching a wider audience in the form of engravings and aquatints in various books. From 1798 Alexander published numerous illustrated works on the costumes and manners of Russians, Turks, Chinese and other peoples. He taught at the military college at Great Marlow until 1808, when he took up the post of Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum in London. In his later years he produced a number of picturesque landscapes as well as drawings of antiquities. (Wilton/Lyles 1993, p. 312)
The Great Age of British Watercolors 1750-1880. Exh. cat. NGA, 1993.