Sir William Beechey
(12 December 1753 - 28 January 1839)
English portrait-painter. Beechey was born at Burford, Oxfordshire, the son of William Beechey and Hannah Read. Both his parents died when he was still quite young, and he and his siblings were brought up by his uncle Samuel. He was interested in painting from an early age, and was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools n 1772, although, according to some accounts, his family intended him to follow his uncle Samuel into a legal career.
In the early part of his career Beechey specialised in small-scale full-length portraits. Between 1782 and 1787, he lived in Norwich, and eventually painted four works for the collection of civic portraits hung in St. Andrew's Hall in the city, although only one was done during his residence there.
He returned to London in 1787. Eventually he came to the notice of the royal family, and in 1793 painted a full-length portrait of Queen Charlotte, who appointed him her official portrait painter. In the same year he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy. He painted not only the portraits of the royal family, but of nearly all the most famous or fashionable people of the time. What is considered his finest production was a large composition in the foreground of which he introduced portraits of George III, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York, surrounded by a brilliant staff on horseback. George III. and the Prince of Wales reviewing troops was painted in 1798, and obtained for the artist the honour of knighthood, and his election as R.A. (member of the Academy). Other sitters included Lord Nelson, John Kemble, and Sarah Siddons.
Samuel Redgrave wrote in the late 19th century: "His portraits were deficient in grace, his draperies poor and ill cast, and he showed no ability to overcome the graceless stiffness which then prevailed in dress. Yet he possessed much merit, and his portraits have maintained a respectable second rank."
William Beechey's first marriage was to Mary Ann Jones (ca. 1760, 1793) in 1772 (other sources say 1778). Beechey had five children with her:
A Century of Painters of the English School, Richard Redgrave; Samuel Redgrave, eds. (1890); Sampson Low, Marston. Roberts, W. (1907;. Sir William Beechey, R.A. London: Duckworth & Co. Richard Redgrave; Samuel Redgrave, eds. (1890). This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911); "Beechey, Sir William", Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.); Laughton, John Knox (1885); "Beechey, Frederick William"; In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography 4; London: Smith, Elder & Co. Wilson, John. "Beechey, Sir William (1753–1839)"; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
BEECHEY, SIR WILLIAM (1753-1839), English portrait-painter, was born at Burford. He was originally meant for a conveyancer, but a strong love of painting induced him to become a pupil at the Royal Academy in 1772. Some of his smaller portraits gained him considerable reputation; he began to be employed by the nobility, and in 1793, became associate of the Academy. In the same year he was made portrait-painter to Queen Charlotte. He painted the portraits of the members of the royal family, and of nearly all the most famous or fashionable persons of the time. What is considered his finest production is a review of cavalry, a large composition, in the foreground of which he introduced portraits of George III., the prince of Wales, and the Duke of York, surrounded by a brilliant staff on horseback. It was painted in 1798, and obtained for the artist the honour of knighthood, and his election as Royal Academician.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 3, 1911
External Link: Sir William Beechey, R. A., by W. (William) Roberts, (1907)
View artist's work: Sir William Beechey (1753-1839)