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Northern Light: Photographs by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson from the University of St. Andrews

Tuesday April 1, 2003 - Sunday May 25, 2003
Northern Light: Photographs by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson from the University of St. AndrewsSt. Salvator's College Chapel from the Southeast, ca. 1845, salted paper print from a calotype negative; University of St. Andrews Library/Hay Fleming Trustees, Album 66-3

Northern Light presented a group of rarely seen calotypes by the Scottish photographers Hill and Adamson. Most of the works were on loan from the University of St. Andrews, located on the east coast of Scotland (about 50 miles by road from Edinburgh). St. Andrews is a place full of the past. A pilgrimage destination for centuries, the small town today is visited by modern pilgrims--tourists--in the thousands, mainly to walk the turf of the world-famous "Old Course"; for St. Andrews is renowned as the "home of golf." The town also played a pivotal role in the early history of photography.

Near View of the Pends The Pends from the Southeast

Near View of the Pends with a Man, Two Horses and a Cart and The Pends from the Southeast, both ca. 1845, salted paper prints from calotype negatives; University of St. Andrews Library, Album 23-4 and University of St. Andrews Library/Hay Fleming Trustees, Album 66-9

Sir David Brewster, the Principal of the United Colleges of St. Andrews, had a long acquaintance with William Henry Fox Talbot, whose 1839 announcement of a photographic process followed by a few weeks Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre's. Brewster experimented with Fox Talbot's calotype process along with enthusiasts including young Robert Adamson (1821-1848). Adamson demonstrated great proficiency, and in 1843 moved to Edinburgh to establish a calotype studio. There he met the painter David Octavius Hill (1802-1870), and the two young Scots began a remarkable and prolific artistic partnership; although they worked together for only four and a half years, they produced some 3,000 calotypes.

The focus of this exhibition was Hill and Adamson's A Series of Calotype Views of St. Andrews, published in 1846 at their Edinburgh studio. Most of the works on view came from two partial albums that were disbound for a 2002 exhibition at St. Andrews commemorating the bicentenary of Hill's birth.

In addition to the loans from St. Andrews were 23 Hill and Adamson calotypes that presumably were printed in the 1890s and a group of photogravures published later in Alfred Stieglitz's magazine Camera Work.

Lady Ruthven

Lady Ruthven, 1905 (plate 3 from Camera Work no. 11, July 1905), photogravure from a calotype negative; Friends of the Davison Art Center funds, 2002

It could be said that Hill and Adamson's work in calotype began the tradition of painterly photography, which greatly influenced Pictorialist photographers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Tuesday 1 April - Sunday 25 May 2003

Norman Reid, Keeper of Manuscripts at the University of St. Andrews Library, gave a gallery talk on Friday 4 April at 5:15 p.m. This event was free and open to the public.

On Wednesday 16 April at 8:00 P.M., Graham Smith, Professor of Art History at the University of St. Andrews, presented the lecture "Northern Light: Early Photography in Scotland." This event took place at Wesleyan's Russell House, 350 High Street; it was free and open to the public. The DAC gallery (nearby at 301 High Street) was open from 6:30 until 7:45 p.m. before the lecture.

In conjunction with this exhibition, the DAC has published a catalog which all members of the Friends of the Davison Art Center received free of charge; it also is available for purchase.