Sir William Beechey RA (1753 – 1839) was born at Burford, Oxfordshire on 12 December 1753. He went on to study at the Royal Academy Schools from 1774 and was taught by Zoffany. Many of his early portraits circa 1776-1786 are small scale full-lengths and show a debt to his teacher Zoffany.
After some years in London he moved to Norwich, where he had a successful portrait practice from circa 1783. He returned to London in 1787 and worked from Brook Street.
His exhibiting career lasted for 59 years, one of the longest careers as an R.A. Exhibitor. This included 373 works at the Royal Academy, 32 at the British Institution and 20 at the Society of British Artists.
His portraits were noted their ‘accuracy of likeness and lively colour’. His account book from 1789 survives and is at the National Portrait Gallery London. Elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1793 and a full member in 1798.
Beechey was knighted in 1798, the first artist to receive this since Reynolds. Appointed portrait painter to Queen Charlotte in 1793, and by 1814 was portrait painter to Her Majesty and to HRH the Duke of Gloucester.
Works in public collections: Her Majesty the Queen, Tate Gallery; National Portrait Galleries in London & Scotland; Victoria & Albert Museum; British Museum; Hampton Court; Dulwich Art Gallery; Detroit Institute; Philadelphia Museum.