William Alexander was born in Maidstone, Kent; the son of a coachbuilder. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1784 and may have trained under watercolourist Julius Caesar Ibbetson. He travelled to China as Junior Draughtsman in Lord Macartney's embassy of 1792 to 1794 and his drawings of the expedition were later engraved. In 1802 he became the first Master of Landscape Drawing at the Royal Military College in Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire. He held an interest in medieval architecture and travelled throughout Britain, drawing churches and monuments. His drawings of Egyptian antiquities in the British Museum were engraved and published between 1805 and 1807. In 1808, he was appointed the Museum’s Assistant Keeper of Prints and Drawings.
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