Isabella Burns, Mrs John Begg, 1771 - 1858. Youngest sister of Robert Burns (1843 - 1846)
About this artwork
Isabella Burns Begg was the youngest sister of the poet, Robert Burns. There was a striking resemblance between the two. Robert Burns died before photography was established but through this vivid portrait of his sister, we get an idea of how he might have looked in old age. Isabella was widowed young and raised nine children single-handed. In later years, she was given a picturesque cottage where she lived almost as a monument to her brother, entertaining hoards of visitors from the United Kingdom, the Continent and America.
- title: Isabella Burns, Mrs John Begg, 1771 - 1858. Youngest sister of Robert Burns
- accession number: PGP HA 277
- artists: Robert AdamsonScottish (1821 - 1848) David Octavius HillScottish (1802 - 1870)
- depicted: Isabella Burns
- gallery: Scottish National Portrait Gallery(Print Room)
- object type: Photograph
- subject: Burns
- materials: Calotype print
- date created: 1843 - 1846
- measurements: 19.80 x 13.80 cm
- credit line: Provenance unknown
David Octavius Hill
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.
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.