David Octavius Hill & Robert Adamson

Rev. William Govan, 1804 - 1875. Missionary in South Africa [a] (About 1843)

About this artwork

This calotype was one of many studies for Hill’s large-scale painting relating to the 1843 disruption of the Church of Scotland. The final painting was completed in 1866. Ordained in Glasgow, Rev. William Govan was sent to South Africa in 1840 by the Glasgow Missionary Society. Four years later his post was transferred to the Free Church’s Foreign Mission Committee. The outbreak of the seventh in the Cape Frontier Wars in 1846 resulted in Govan returning home. He later travelled back to Lovedale in South Africa, a mission station and school, where he remained until 1870.

David Octavius Hill

Robert Adamson

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.

Robert Adamson

Robert Adamson was one of the first professional photographers, setting up in business in Edinburgh in March 1843. He had aspired to be an engineer but his health was too poor. His brother, John, who was involved in the early experiments with photography in St Andrews, taught him the calotype process. Shortly after opening his studio on Calton Hill, Robert met the painter David Octavius Hill. They worked together for a few weeks on studies for a grand painting of the Free Church of Scotland before entering into partnership to explore the possibilities of photography. Despite Adamson's early death, the two produced some of the most impressive works taken in the medium and greatly influenced later practice in the art.