David Octavius Hill ~ Painter and Photographer

David Octavius Hill: This painter and pioneering portrait photography was born in Perth in 1802, the son of a local bookseller. Educated at Perth Academy he studied subsequently at the Edinburgh School of Design. He became interested in railways as a young man and produced a set of engravings of the Garnkirk & Glasgow Railway in 1831. It was the first time an artist had attempted to record the mechanical devices with meticulous precision.
As a painter Hill concentrated on landscapes and genre painting – he is work is described as poetic and influenced by J M W Turner.  In 1929 he helped found the Scottish Academy. As an originator of the Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts, David Hill promoted art education and helped secure several works by Scottish artists.  A tiny selection of some of his paintings is found below: 

Edinburgh, Old and New – 1851

Ruins of the Palace of Dunfermline – 1854

The First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland; signing the Act of Separation and Deed of Demission – 18th May 1843

In 1821 he published the first set of lithographs to be issued in Scotland –“Sketches of Scenery in Perthshire”. David Hill also worked as a book illustrator, for example his 1840, Land of Burns.  Around 1843 he developed an interest in photography and proceeded to collaborate with Robert Adamson for three-and-a-half years in which time some three thousand photographs were made by the calotype process. These were mainly portraits and are considered a landmark in the history of photography. Of special note as a photographer is Hill’s, The Fishermen and Women of the Firth of Forth. He died in 1870. The University of Glasgow (Special Collections) and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery house much of the Hill & Adamson negatives (490 in Glasgow University). There are 468 salted paper prints in the Glasgow collection. In 1843, Hill was commissioned to take photographs of the founders of the Free Church of Scotland. His picture of the Linlithgow Railway is believed to be the first ever photograph of a railway scene. Hill continued to paint and in 1848 his friend, the railway engineer, John Miller, suggested he painted the viaduct he had built at Ballochmyle. Hill painted three pictures of the viaduct and also took numerous photographs of the Glasgow, Dumfries & Carlisle Railway. 

David Octavius Hill died in 1870.

Further information and catalogues of Hill and Adamson’s work can be found athttp://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/hillandadamson/handa.html and athttp://www.natgalscot.ac.uk/index.asp