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William Alexander (1766-1816)
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William Alexander (1766-1816)

Barges preparing to enter the Hwang-ho

Details
William Alexander (1766-1816)
Barges preparing to enter the Hwang-ho
watercolour on paper
12 x 18 3/8in. (30.4 x 46.7cm.)
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Lot Essay

There is a related watercolour by Alexander in the Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery (‘Barges preparing to enter the Hwang-Po’), the subject identified by comparison with two drawings in the volume 3 of Alexander’s drawings in the India Office Library (961/1-89ff., f.26 77 Entrance of the Hwang-ho or Yellow river 1793; f.30 85 Nov 2nd 1793. The same day we crossed the Whang-ho …’). The scene shows Lord Macartney’s fleet on the Grand Canal, early in the morning on 2 November 1793, when they paused and the crews performed rituals, before crossing the three mile wide river with its treacherous currents, on their southward return journey from Peking: ‘From Peking the British were allowed to take an overland route to Canton. They travelled down the Peiho and the Grand Canal by means of junks, taking about a month to reach Hanchow, a city situated roughly at the half-way point between Peking and Canton. Alexander busied himself making innumerable sketches of life on the Canal, some of which were later worked up into large finished watercolours …’ (S. Legouix, Image of China William Alexander, London, 1980, p.12)

Alexander has, typically, included a portrait of himself sketching on one of the junks.

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