He was originally apprenticed to what is called a bright engraver, and practised as a writing engraver, but gradually became inspired by the higher branches of the engraver's art. Among his earlier plates are some illustrations, after Stothard, for the Novelists' Magazine. He engraved the "Doctors Disputing on the Immaculateness of the Virgin" and the "Ecce Homo" of Guido Reni, the "St Cecilia" of Domenichino, the "Virgin and Child" of Dolci, and the portrait of John Hunter of Sir Joshua Reynolds.
His style of eta-graving is thoroughly masterly and original, excellent in its play of line and rendering of half-tints and of "colour." He died at Chiswick on the 25th of July 1824.
In his youth, owing to his hotly expressed adherence to the politics of Paine and Horne Tooke, he was examined by the privy council on a charge of treason. Mesmer and Brothers found in Sharp a stanch believer; and for long he maintained Joanna Southcott at his own expense. As an engraver he achieved a European reputation, and at the time of his death he enjoyed the honour of being a member of the Imperial Academy of Vienna and of the Royal Academy of Munich.