220th Anniversary of the birth of David Octavius Hill RSA

May 20, 2022
Robert Adamson (1821-48), D O Hill RSA seated with a book, calotype print, around 1843-48, gifted by D O Hill, around 1852.
Robert Adamson (1821-48), D O Hill RSA seated with a book, calotype print, around 1843-48, gifted by D O Hill, around 1852.
May 20th 2022 marks the 220th Anniversary of the birth of David Octavius Hill RSA (1802-70).
 
At the time Hill’s parents were living in an upper flat of a comfortable tenement building at the corner of High Street and Watergate, and which still stands. It is most likely therefore that this is where D O Hill was born.
 
 
His father was a bookseller, bookbinder, stationer, publisher, auctioneer, and circulating librarian whose stock included not just books but prints as well. His shop on George Street was a stone’s throw from his house, and within sight of its windows.
 
D O Hill received his first artistic training at Perth Academy where his fellow students included fellow Academicians Thomas Duncan ARA RSA (1807-45) and John McLaren Barclay RSA (1811-86). He then moved to Edinburgh to study under our future President Sir William Allan (1782-1850) at the Trustees Academy.
 
Hill was one of our original members. He resigned after the first meeting but re-joined in 1829 under the Hope-Cockburn Award. In 1830 he became our second Secretary on the resignation of William Nicholson RSA, and held that post for an incredible and active 39 years. Ill health forced him to resign in 1869 and he died the following year.
 
Best remembered today as one of the most important of the early photographers in the world, in partnership with Dr Robert Adamson (1821-48), D O Hill was a prolific artist in his own right and a man without whose energy, intellect, drive, and diplomacy the Academy could easily have floundered.

About the author

Robin Rodger

Robin H. Rodger graduated as O. E. Saunders Prizeman in Art History from the University of St Andrews in 1983, before taking his Diploma in Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Manchester in 1984. The next 26 years were spent at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, and since 2013 he has been Documentation Officer with the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture. A keen researcher, he has lectured and published widely on Perthshire artists and Perth silver, and is currently engaged in research projects relating to aspects of print and printmaking in Scotland.