David Octavius Hill & Robert Adamson

George Street, Looking towards the Church of St. Andrew and St George and the Melville Monument in St. Andrew Square, Edinburgh (1840s)

About this artwork

This image, which is possibly by Hill and Adamson who were working collaboratively in Edinburgh in the 1840s, shows a view along the city’s prestigious George Street. Named after King George III, the street was laid out from 1767 as part of the New Town redevelopment. This scene, looking east towards St. Andrew Square, shows a horse and several gentlemen in top hats gathered in the foreground. The composition captures the strong classical influence in architecture of the New Town. In the foreground the statue of King George IV is just visible. It was erected in 1831 to commemorate the king’s visit to the capital in 1822, the first reigning monarch to visit the Scotland for 150 years.

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.