William Beechey

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William Beechey
Sir William Beechey (12 December 1753 28 January 1839) was an English portrait-painter.

Beechey was born at Burford, Oxfordshire, on 12 December 1753, 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, being admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in 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 painting life 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, only one was done during his residence there.

Beechey returned to London in 1787. Eventually he came to the notice of the royal family. In 1793 painting a full-length portrait of Queen Charlotte, she appointed him Official Royal 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 RA (member of the Academy). This painting was destroyed in the 1992 Windsor Castle fire.

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