Search the Collections

Sir William Beechey
Birth Date: 
Death Date: 
Born in Burford, Oxfordshire, Beechey was trained for the law, moving from his first employer in Gloucestershire in the late 1760s to London. ARer meeting some students at the Royal Academy, he entered that school in 1774, exhibiting there from 1776 to 1839, one of the longest careers in the history of the academy. ARer some instruction from Johann Zoffany, well known for his conversation pieces, Beechey moved to Norwich in 1782 and set up a successful practice with the financial assistance of his patron, Dr. Strachey, a clergyman. Here he began to paint life-size portraits. He returned to London in 1787, entering into a professional rivalry with John Hoppner and Sir Thomas Lawrence. In 1793 Beechey was named painter to Queen Charlotte, wife of George 111, who became a personal friend of the Beechey family and acted as godmother to one of their children. The artist was elected a full member of the Royal Academy in 1798, the same year he was knighted. Beechey's ability to achieve a conscientious but aristocratic likeness, probing subtly into the characters of his sitters, made him a favorite portraitist in Georgian society.