Sir William Beechey was born at Burford, near Oxford in 1753.
In 1774, Beechey entered the Royal Academy schools and had his first exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1776. He continued to exhibit abundantly at the Royal Academy until 1839, one of the longest careers of an Academy exhibitor.
Beechey’s earliest mentor was the painter Zoffany and his early portraits from 1776 to 1786 are small-scale pictures, are reminiscent of Zoffany’s work.
After some years in London, Beechey moved to Norwich where his practice flourished. Beechey lived in Norwich from 1782, returning to London in1787 and established himself successfully. Beechey’s accounts of the period show him to be financially well off and with many commissions.
Beechey and the portrait painter Hoppner were fierce rivals and to their detestation were both elected to be Associate Members of the Royal Academy in 1793. However. Hoppner became portrait painter to the Prince of Wales and Beechey was made portrait painter to Queen Charlotte in 1793.Throughout his life, Beechey produced a steady stream of fashionable portraits, which showed sound likenesses and considerable variety.
The series of the ‘ Royal Princesses’, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1797 and the enormous painting, ‘ The King reviewing the Dragoons’ in the Royal Academy of 1798 (all of which are in the Royal Collection), mark the highpoint of his career and his great success.
In 1793, Beechey married his second wife, the miniature painter, Anne Phyllis Jessup.
Beechey died at Hampstead on the 29 January 1839.