port painting


Posted on 18 January 2015

David Octavius Hill RSA (1802-1870)           

View from the Bridge, – of the North Inch and part of the Fair City of Perth, with the River Tay and the distant Grampians, – Evening                                               

(oil on canvas, c.1850-4) H 103.8cm x W 183.0cm

Diploma Collection (annex)

This sumptuous landscape by David Octavius Hill RSA became the Academy’s first landmark purchase of a major painting since the 1860s and was made possible by a newly established Rationalisation Acquisition Fund, which enables us to fill historic gaps in our collections of work by Academicians and Associates.

David Octavius Hill RSA (1802-1870) was RSA Secretary for 38 years during which time the Academy become a major force for Scottish art and artists. The collections hold examples of his work (calotypes and lithographic scenes of Perthshire), but he was unrepresented in his elected discipline as a painter. Sadly, due to aesthetic destruction from bitumen in the paint, his Diploma Work was destroyed.

Considering the rarity of significant paintings by Hill on the market, some fast footwork was needed when Perth Sunset, The Celebrations for the Visit of Queen Victoria, 1842 came up for auction. It was described as and was originally thought to relate to the Queen’s state visit of 1842 – her first to Scotland a mere four years after signing a Royal Charter in favour of the Academy. It took her to Perth and the home of RSA artists Thomas Duncan, John MacLaren Barclay and David Octavius Hill and so this attribution seemed appropriate. However, research into the provenance and features of the painting drew collections staff to conclude that it is in fact this later work featured in the RSA Annual Exhibition of 1855. Unravelling the history of a painting is rather like solving a crime, if less dangerous!

In its warm harmonies of light and measured composition the painting is a fine, rarely surviving example of Hill’s highly regarded sunset landscapes. It is without doubt an excellent work with which to launch an exciting period in the development of the Academy’s collections.