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David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, The Birdcage 1890

David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, The Birdcage 1890

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David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson

The Birdcage, 1890

Camera Work XXVIII

Photogravure, 20.7 x 15.9 cm

When describing this print, Hill declares 'The art can do something approaching the beautiful.' [1]

It is impossible to estimate what impact James Craig Annan would have on the future of photography when he began experimenting with using photogravure to print Hill and Adamson’s calotypes in the 1890s. Annan believed that photogravure could be for the first time, an accurate interpretation of Hill and Adamson's forgotten about material. The surface quality alone was enough. Like photogravure, calotypes and salt prints have a soft mat surface. 

A highly skilled technician, Annan was fastidious, in part because he was a perfectionist and also because he may have felt a personal responsibility to Hill. Hill was a family friend and is known to have influenced Annan’s pursuit of art. Annan eventually produced a a group of twenty Hill and Adamson images assembled into a portfolio that was never editioned. Over the years Annan lent Hill and Adamson photogravure prints to exhibitions in Europe and America. And by sending the prints to Stieglitz for Camera Work in 1905, 1909 and 1912 Annan ultimately brought Hill and Adamson back into the public eye. [2]


Adams, Ansel. A Pageant of Photography. , 1940. A catalog of an exhibition of both historical and contemporary photography curated by Ansel Adams at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco as part of the Golden Gate Exposition in 1940. (cover)

Frank, Waldo D. America and Alfred Stieglitz: A Collective Portrait. New York: Aperture, 1979. pl. 1.b.

Kruse, Margret. Kunstphotographie Um 1900: D. Sammlung Ernst Juhl; Hamburg: Museum für Kunst u. Gewerbe, 1989 pl. 491

Madigan, Mary J. S, and Susan Colgan. Prints & Photographs: Understanding, Appreciating, Collecting. , 1983 p. 99

Simpson, Roddy. The Photography of Victorian Scotland. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013.p. 188

[1] Stevenson, Sara. The Personal Art of David Octavius Hill. New Haven [Conn.: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for the Studies in British Art by Yale University Press, 2002.  p 46

[2] Hans P. Kraus Jr (Firm) Schaaf LJ. Sun Pictures. Catalog Eleven St. Andrews and Early Scottish Photography Including Hill & Adamson. New York: H.P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs; 2002.

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