David Octavius Hill - The Scott Monument under Construction
Robert Adamson, David Octavius Hill..1843..Accession no. PGP HA 424 .Medium Calotype print .Size 20.10 x 14.90 cm .Credit Provenance unknown..For more information please select here ( http://www.nationalgalleries.org/object/PGP HA 424 ) .
David Octavius Hill was a Scottish painter and photographer. He was a pioneer of photography in Scotland and is best known for his collaboration with Robert Adamson in which they produced some of the most important early photographs of Scotland.
In 1843, Hill was commissioned to paint a group portrait of the leaders of the Free Church of Scotland, which became known as the "Disruption Assembly" painting. He then decided to photograph the same people in order to have a more accurate representation of the individuals. This commission led him to take up photography and he teamed up with Robert Adamson, who was a master of the new collodion process. Together, they produced a large body of work that depicted the people and landscapes of Scotland during the mid-19th century. Their photographs are considered some of the most important early photographs of Scotland, and are widely recognized for their technical excellence and artistry.
National Galleries of Scotland looks after one of the world's finest collections of Western art ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day. These holdings include the National Collection of Scottish art which we are proud to display in an international context. Scotland’s privileged position in the history of modernity lends it a rich photographic tradition. From the beginnings of the medium small groups of scientists and gentlemen amateurs explored its technical and artistic potential. One such group formed around the optical scientist, Sir David Brewster, at St. Andrews, and professional studios – including the partnership of Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill – were established in Edinburgh from 1843. From the mid 1850s, technological change helped drive a dramatic expansion of photography, with large commercial operations established by the Valentine family in Dundee and George Washington Wilson in Aberdeen.
By the first half of the 18th century, Edinburgh was one of Europe's most densely populated and overcrowded towns. Various social classes shared the same urban space, even inhabiting the same tenement buildings with lower classes occupying cellars and garrets, and the more established classes occupied the more expensive middle stories. In the second half of the 18th century, the city was at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment. It became a "hotbed of genius", a major intellectual center, "Athens of the North" because of its numerous neo-classical buildings and reputation for learning, recalling ancient Athens. From the 1770s onwards, the professional and business classes gradually deserted the Old Town in favor of one-family residences of the New Town, changing the city's social character. "Unity of social feeling was one of the most valuable heritages of old Edinburgh, and its disappearance was widely and properly lamented." Although Edinburgh's traditional industries of printing, brewing, and distilling continued to grow in the 19th century and were joined by new rubber works and engineering works, there was little industrialization compared with other cities in Britain. The Old Town became an increasingly dilapidated and overcrowded slum so Lord Provost William Chambers in the 1860s began the transformation of the central part of the city into the Victorian Old Town that exists today.