William Beechey

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Sir William Beechey
Self-portrait of Sir William Beechey, c. 1790.
Born William Beechey
(1753-12-12)12 December 1753
Burford, Oxfordshire
Died 28 January 1839(1839-01-28) (aged 85)
Nationality British
Known for Portrait Oil Painting

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


File:Queen Charlotte.jpg
Queen Charlotte (1796; Royal Collection)
George Douglas, 16th Earl of Morton

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.[1] 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.[2]

In the early part of his painting life Beechey specialised in small-scale full-length portraits.[3] 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.[4]

Beechey returned to London in 1787. Eventually he came to the notice of the royal family, and in 1793 painted a full-length picture of Queen Charlotte, who appointed him her official portrait painter. In the same year he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy.[5] He painted not only the portraits of the royal family, but of nearly all the most famous or fashionable people of the time. His George III and the Prince of Wales reviewing troops a large composition showing the king and prince surrounded by a brilliant staff on horseback, was painted in 1798. It obtained for him the honour of knighthood, and his election as a full member of the Royal Academy.[6] The painting was destroyed in the 1992 Windsor Castle fire.


Other celebrity sitters included Lord Nelson, John Kemble, and Sarah Siddons.[6] 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.[7]


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:

  1. Emma Amalia Beechy (*1784; † 1859)
  2. Henry William Beechey (*1788; † 4 August 1862) British painter, egyptologist
  3. Charles Beechey (*1789)
  4. Caroline Beechey (*1790)
  5. Harriet Beechey (*1792)

He secondly married Ann Phyllis Jessop (*3 August 1764; 14 December 1833) in 1793 and had 16 children by her:

  1. Ann Phyllis Beechey (*1794; †December 1883)
  2. Frederick William Beechey (17 February 1796;– 29 November 1856), Royal Navy captain, geographer, politician
  3. George Duncan Beechey (*1798; † 6 December 1852), painter
  4. Anna Dodsworth Beechey (*1800)
  5. William Nelson Beechey (*3 August 1801; † 1 August 1878)
  6. Charlotte Earl Beechey (*3 August 1801; † 28 November 1849)
  7. Alfred Beechey (*24 June 1803)
  8. St. Vincent Beechey (*7 August 1806; †19 August 1899), clergyman
  9. Richard Brydges Beechey (*17 May 1808; † 14 March 1895), painter and admiral in the British navy
  10. Jane Henrietta Frances Beechy (*19 December 1809)
  11. Augusta Beechey (* 1812)
  12. Fredericka Anne Beechey (* 1814)
  13. William Ernest Beechey (* 1816)
  14. Frances Beechey (* 1818)
  15. Phyliss Beechey (* 1820)
  16. a daughter S. R. Beechey (* 1822)


A monograph by W. Roberts, Sir William Beechey, R.A., was published in London 1907 and includes Beechey's account books and a list of works exhibited in his lifetime.



  • Richard Redgrave; Samuel Redgrave, eds. (1890). A Century of Painters of the English School. Sampson Low, Marston.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Roberts, W. (1907). Sir William Beechey, R.A. London: Duckworth & Co.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2F1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica%2FBeechey%2C_Sir_William "Beechey, Sir William" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  •  Laughton, John Knox (1885). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2FBeechey%2C_Frederick_William_%28DNB00%29 "Beechey, Frederick William" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 4. London: Smith, Elder & Co.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Wilson, John. "Beechey, Sir William (1753–1839)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1949.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

External links