William Alexander (1767–1816) was a watercolour artist best known today for his topographical views and figure studies produced following his trip to China as the draughtsman to the embassy of Lord Macartney (1792–94). Girtin came into contact with Alexander at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), though his rather conservative watercolours and drawings are unlikely to have been influential. Alexander’s posthumous sale included over 130 items by Girtin (Exhibitions: Sotheby’s, 27–28 February 1817; Sotheby's, 10–14 March 1817). The bulk were described as ‘Sketches’ and ‘Studies’ and their subjects were not specified; however, it has been possible to identify several views – The West Front of Lichfield Cathedral (TG1001), The Guildhall, Exeter (TG1225) and Southampton: The South Gate and Old Gaol (TG1726) – as coming from his collection. Another item, described as ‘ANCIENT CROSSES of ENGLAND and WALES. A Collection of above ONE HUNDRED SKETCHES and DRAWINGS … some of them most exquisitely finished, by the masterly hands of TURNER and GIRTIN’ might suggest the motivation of Alexander’s collecting. Alexander, the sale catalogue noted, ‘had in view, to publish the above Collection’. Alexander was also a subscriber to Girtin’s Picturesque Views in Paris, paying five guineas for a set of the aquatints (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804). A list of subscribers is included in John Girtin’s account of the income he received from the Picturesque Views in Paris, together with the expenses incurred in completing the project. They are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).
The West Front of Lichfield Cathedral
Jedburgh Abbey, from the North East
Southampton: The South Gate and Old Gaol