Published: April 1, 2003
Early Scots Photographs on View at Wesleyan University
MIDDLETOWN, CONN. – In 1839 the invention of photography was first announced in France by Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, who called his images daguerreotypes. Only a few weeks later, across the Channel in England, William Henry Fox Talbot announced the invention of calotype, a different photographic process.
On view at Wesleyan University’s Davison Art Center through May 25, “: Photographs by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson from the University of St Andrews” highlights a group of rarely seen calotypes by the Scottish photographers Hill and Adamson.
Most of the exhibited works are on loan from the University of St Andrews, located on the east coast of Scotland (about 50 miles by road from Edinburgh).
Certain university leaders experimented with Talbot’s process of photo-sensitizing sheets of paper. A paper negative laid upon another sensitized sheet and then exposed to sunlight yielded a positive image, which Talbot called a calotype. The pictorial nature of the calotype, its softness and tonal qualities, captivated artists previously working in a variety of media.
The young St Andrews native, Robert Adamson (1821-1848), demonstrated great proficiency in using the calotype process, and in 1843 he 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 artistic partnership. Although they worked together for only four and a half years, they were extraordinarily prolific, having produced a total of some 3,000 calotypes.
Most of the calotypes on view are from Hill and Adamson’s 1846 album A Series of Calotype Views of St Andrews.
Also on view in this exhibition are photogravures by Hill and Adamson that were published in Alfred Stieglitz’s magazine Camera Work, as well as works by such later pictorialist photographers as George Seeley, Alvin Landgon Coburn and Herbert French.
There will be a free gallery talk by Norman Reid, keeper of manuscripts, University of St Andrews Library, on Friday, April 4, at 5:15 pm. A reception will follow.
On April 16, at 8 pm, “: Early Photography in Scotland” will be presented by Graham Smith, professor of art history, University of St Andrews. The lecture will be at The Russell House, 350 High Street. A reception will follows.
Davison Art Center, 301 High Street, is open to the public free of charge. Hours are Tuesday to Sunday, noon to pm. For information, call 860-685-2500 or visit www.wesleyan.edu/dac.
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