About this artwork

Although best known today for his contribution to photography, David Octavius Hill was a genre and landscape painter. In this oil painting we glimpse Leith, which was Scotland's main port until the 19th century, and the official port of Edinburgh. Leith dealt in grain, flax, sugar, timber, iron, paper and whisky, the profits from which filled the Edinburgh coffers. The painting explores different kinds of light caused by the low sun, falling directly onto the buildings in the background and filtered through the ships' sails. Note the beggars in the foreground with the little animated wooden figures.

  • title: On the Quay at Leith
  • accession number: NG 210
  • artist: David Octavius HillScottish (1802 - 1870)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Harbours and quays
  • materials: Oil on panel
  • date created:
  • measurements: 30.00 x 35.60 cm (framed: 52.20 x 57.00 x 8.50 cm)
  • credit line: Purchased by the RI 1826; transferred 1859
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

David Octavius Hill

David Octavius Hill

A painter and a lithographer by training, David Octavius Hill is best remembered for the beauty of the calotypes he and Robert Adamson produced together. Hill was a sociable and kind-hearted man who did much to support the arts in Scotland and between 1830 and 1836 he was the unpaid Secretary of the newly established Royal Scottish Academy. After Adamson's death, Hill's attempt to start a new partnership with the photographer Alexander MacGlashan around 1860 failed. Hill is to this day revered as one of the first in the trade who transformed photography into an art form.