David Octavius Hill & Robert Adamson

John Sobieski Stolberg-Stuart, 1797 - 1872. Alias John Hay or John Hay Allan [a] (About 1844)

About this artwork

John Sobieski and his brother, Charles Edward, arrived in Scotland sometime around 1822, claiming that they were direct descendants of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) and his wife, Princess Louisa of Stolberg. At the time some people were sympathetic to the brothers’ claims. They were offered a house on the island of Eilean Aigas, eight miles west of Inverness, where they learned Gaelic and wrote verse. In 1842 they published ‘Vestiarium Scoticum’, an ‘ancient’ work on clan tartans that influenced the development of modern tartan. According to a contemporary source, they were "handsome men, particularly John Sobieski, who, however, had not a trace of the Stuart in his far finer face. They always wore the Highland dress, kilt and belted plaid, and looked melancholy…"

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.