(b Maidstone, Kent, April 10, 1767; d Maidstone, July 23, 1816).
English painter, engraver, draughtsman and museum official. The son of a coachbuilder, he was apprenticed to Julius Caesar Ibbetson before enrolling in 1784 at the Royal Academy Schools, London. In 1792 he accepted the post (previously declined by Ibbetson) of draughtsman to George, 1st Earl Macartney, on his embassy to China. As the embassy returned by inland waterway from Beijing to Canton, Alexander made detailed sketches of the Chinese hinterland—something achieved by no British artist previously and by very few subsequently. These sketches formed the basis for finished watercolours (e.g. Ping-tze Muen, the Western Gate of Peking, 1799; London, BM) and for numerous engravings by both himself and others. For over fifty years his images of China were widely borrowed by book illustrators and by interior decorators in search of exotic themes.
Alexander was also a keen student of British medieval antiquities, undertaking several tours in order to make drawings of churches and monuments; many of these were reproduced in the antiquarian publications of ...