THE LOWER ground-floor area of Perth Museum – my favourite place – is where the city’s permanent art collection finds a home. A handful of Old Masters grace the left-hand wall, including the magnificent maybe-Caravaggio Prometheus, while the free spirit right-hand surface is presently hung with oil paintings of Perth.
One of them, Perth from Boatlands, takes its viewer across the Tay to the North Inch and the town beyond.
It was painted by David Octavius Hill in 1826. Hill (1802-1870), a son of Perth, was a highly-regarded landscape painter before turning to the new medium of photography.
Intrigued by Henry Fox Talbot’s experiments, Hill formed a brilliant partnership with the St Andrews engineer Robert Adamson between 1843 and 1847 to develop many aspects of photography. Today, Hill-Adamson photographs are considered among the most important and valuable in the world.
Now to Dominic Winter’s auction of early photographs in London on March 9.
‘Portrait of David Octavius Hill’ was a very early photograph of the Perth Academy FP. Dated to around 1845 by the auction house, it was, I think, taken by Adamson two years earlier.
Measuring 8in x 6in, it was mounted on pale grey paper with a pencilled title inscription. It was additionally identified ‘D. O. Hill, RSA’ to the lower-right corner of the mount.
The image is well known and has appeared in important works on early photography, including Dr Sara Stevenson’s seminal David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, (Edinburgh, 1981).
It sold within estimate at £1600.
Boatlands may have been painted before photography was around – but it captures like a snapshot Perth’s ‘Northern New Town’ of splendid Georgian terraces.