David Octavius Hill & Robert Adamson

Captain David Campbell, Allan Robertson, Tom Morris, Bob Andrews, Sir Hugh Playfair and Watty Alexander. 'St Andrews Golfers' [Group 62] (1843 – 1847)

About this artwork

This is one of several photographs used by Charles Lees as a compositional aid for his painting The Golfers of 1847, which is also in the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland. One of the golfers in this calotype is Sir Hugh Playfair, who, as provost of the dilapidated town of St Andrews, initiated its radical transformation in the 1840s. The overhaul included improved leisure opportunities, and Playfair, himself a keen golfer, saved the town’s golf courses from erosion. Fellow golfer Allan Robertson was a third generation ‘featherie’, or golf ball maker and reputedly the best golfer in St Andrew. His pose has been directly copied onto Charles Lees’ painting.

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.