William Donaldson Clark

The National Gallery and the Royal Institution (now the Royal Scottish Academy), Edinburgh (About 1858)

About this artwork

The unusual viewpoint of this photograph creates a powerful composition and allows for the juxtaposition of different building styles in nineteenth-century Edinburgh. Immediately on the right is the National Gallery of Scotland, designed by William Playfair and only just completed when this picture was taken. Further along is the Royal Institution, now the Royal Scottish Academy, which was also designed by Playfair but built some thirty years earlier. Both buildings contrast strikingly with the Life Association Head Office on Princes Street, with its busy façade and Venetian-style balconies. Designed by David Rhind, it was completed in the same year as the National Gallery. In the late 1960s, however, the building was demolished and replaced by a modern department store.

William Donaldson Clark

William Donaldson Clark

William Donaldson Clark was a wealthy cotton cloth printer who used his knowledge of chemistry in his practice as an amateur photographer. He employed the dry collodion process which made outdoor work more practical. Although it required exposure times of up to a quarter of an hour, the technique resulted in subtle effects of light and dark. Clark worked with the landscape painter, Horatio McCulloch, and his own landscape photographs have a similar sophistication. They include some remarkable views of Edinburgh. He died in 1873 when he fell from the top of a tram car travelling from Newington into the city.