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William Alexander studied under Julius Caesar Ibbetson. He served as the "draughtsman" for the Macartney Expedition to China, 1792-1794, sailing in the Hindostan, and making a vast number of sketches. Upon his return to England, he worked up many of these into finished color-wash drawings. A number of these were engraved and reproduced in Sir George Staunton's account of the embassy.