Sharp was apprenticed to the engraver, Barak Longmate, before becoming a pupil at the Royal Academy Schools in 1771. After beginning his career as a writing engraver, Sharp progressed to create larger plates such as his notable engraving of ‘Alfred the Great Dividing his Loaf with the Pilgrim’ after Benjamin West. By this time Sharp was regarded as a key figure in the revival of the classical style of line engraving following the likes of Sir Robert Strange. He went on to contribute to many of the most important serial publications of the early nineteenth century. Despite his success Sharp viewed with disdain the offer of membership to the Royal Academy because of their view that engraving was an inferior form of art and so merited a lesser form of membership.