<< YCBA Home Yale Center for British Art Yale Center for British Art << YCBA Home

YCBA Collections Search

William Alexander, 1767–1816, British

City of Lin Tsin, Shantung, with a View of the Grand Canal

Watercolor and graphite on moderately thick, slightly textured, cream wove paper
Sheet: 11 1/4 × 17 1/2 inches (28.6 × 44.5 cm)

Inscribed on verso in graphite, center right: "Lin Tsin - Grand Canal"

Signed and dated in pen and black ink, lower right: "W Alexander 95"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
architectural subject | buildings | canal | children | Chinese architecture | genre subject | gesture | hats | junks | landscape | men | mountains | pagoda | pavilions | pipe (smoking equipment) | pointing | sampans | ships | smoking (activity) | tools | village | walking | women
Associated Places:
Asia | China | Grand Canal | Shandong
Accessible by request in the Study Room [Request]
Note: The Study Room is open to Yale ID holders by appointment. Please visit the Study Room page on our website for more details.
IIIF Manifest:

From 1792 to 1794 William Alexander accompanied Lord Macartney's embassy to the Emperor of China as its official draftsman. Alexander owed his appointment to Julius Caesar Ibbetson (cay. 93), who had been his teacher when he moved to London from his native Maidstone in 1782. Ibbetson had been the draftsman on an earlier, aborted embassy to China; when offered the post of draftsman with Lord Macartney's embassy, he declined, suggesting that Alexander replace him.

Although the embassy failed in its ostensible mission to open up a Chinese market for British goods, it engendered in the British public a fascination for all things Chinese. With his virtual monopoly on accurate visual information about China, Alexander was strategically situated to take advantage of this interest. Throughout the rest of his life, he produced finished watercolors from his Chinese sketches and provided illustrations to a number of books on China. He first published illustrating Sir George Staunton's An Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China. This view of Lin Tsin was one of the illustrations. Indeed, it seems to have been particularly popular. Four other watercolor versions of it are known, and Alexander exhibited one of these versions (very possibly this one) at the Royal Academy in 1796 under the title Pagoda near Lin-tchin-four.

Scott Wilcox

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001, pg. pg. 99 cat. no 82

On 22 October 1793, Alexander noted in his journal, "At noon we passed the Pagoda of Linsing of 9 stories, about 120 ft. in height. Tis a striking object being detached from any town and stands about 20 yards from the waters edge" (Legouix and Conner, 1981, p. 36). The pagoda at Lin-Ching-Shih stood at the point where the Eu-Ho River intersects with the Grand Canal. Alexander saw and sketched it from the junk in which he traveled up the Eu-Ho and along the entire length of the Grand Canal, from Beijing to Hangchow. Although he had little opportunity for excursions beyond the riverbanks, the month-long voyage provided him with plentiful opportunity to observe waterside life. Alexander made a number of drawings of the Chinese people who gathered to watch the Europeans passing and used these sketches to populate his finished watercolors. This watercolor is one of five versions of the scene that Alexander produced on his return to England and may be the one that was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1796 under the title "Pagoda near Lin-tchin-four" (no. 690). A view of the pagoda, along with several dozen other views by Alexander, was engraved as an illustration to Sir George Staunton's official account of the voyage in 1797.

Eleanor Hughes

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, cat. no. 81, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

William Alexander, William Alexander, An English artist in imperial China , Brighton Borough Council, Brighton, 1981, p. 36, no. 19, NJ18 AL377 C65 (YCBA)

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 279, no. 80, pl. 80, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 2, no. 80, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA)

If you have information about this object that may be of assistance please contact us.