The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

First Previous 20 OF 322 NextLast

Sir David Brewster

20 of 322 portraits by David Octavius Hill

© National Portrait Gallery, London

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Make a donation Close
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

Sir David Brewster

by David Octavius Hill, and Robert Adamson
calotype, 1843
7 5/8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (194 mm x 149 mm)
Given by an anonymous donor, 1973
Primary Collection
NPG P6(10)

Sitterback to top

  • Sir David Brewster (1781-1868), Natural philosopher and academic administrator. Sitter in 18 portraits.

Artistsback to top

  • Robert Adamson (1821-1848), Pioneer photographer. Artist associated with 382 portraits, Sitter in 3 portraits.
  • David Octavius Hill (1802-1870), Landscape and portrait painter; pioneer photographer. Artist associated with 382 portraits, Sitter associated with 22 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster was a founder member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1831) and a key figure in the early history of photography in Britain. Much of his own experimental work was devoted to optics - he invented the kaleidoscope and the lenticular stereoscope - and was the close correspondent of Fox Talbot, the inventor of the negative/positive process of photography. It was Brewster who persuaded Robert Adamson to make a career of calotype photography and who introduced him to the painter David Octavius Hill. Together the two men created some of the most enduring images in the history of photography. They photographed Brewster posed as if absorbed in his reading.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 21 Read entry

    The Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster was a founder member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1831), and a key figure in the early history of photography in Britain. Much of his own experimental work was devoted to optics – he invented the kaleidoscope (1816) and the lenticular stereoscope – and he was a close correspondent of Fox Talbot, inventor of the calotype, who wrote explaining the process to him in May 1841.

    It was Brewster who persuaded Robert Adamson to make a profession of calotype photography, and who introduced him to the painter D. O. Hill, with whom he worked in partnership from a studio in Edinburgh until 1847. In their photographs, ‘executed by R. Adamson under the artistic direction of D. O. Hill’, Adamson’s scientific technique is transformed by Hill’s aesthetic sensibility. The Gallery owns three albums of their finest work, presented by Hill to the Royal Academy in 1863, and given to the Gallery by an anonymous benefactor in 1973. They contain 238 prints, covering the whole range of Hill and Adamson’s work: portraits, studies of fishermen and fishwives, topographical and genre scenes.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 75

Events of 1843back to top

Current affairs

Sir Henry Cole commissions 1,000 copies of the first Christmas card, designed by John Callcott Horsley. Cole would later be instrumental in staging the Great Exhibition, and in developing science and art education in Britain.
Nelson's statue, by E.H. Bailey, is placed on top of its column in Trafalgar Square.

Art and science

The Theatre Regulations Act is passed, abolishing the privileged position of the 'major' theatres which held letters patent from the crown, allowing all theatres to perform 'legitimate' theatre.
First volume of Ruskin's Modern Painters published, praising Turner and demanding that artists should demonstrate 'truth to nature' in their work. Ruskin is a great inspiration to the Pre-Raphaelites.

International

The first experimental telegraph wire is constructed between Baltimore and Washington, using Morse code to send a message. The code, in which pulses of current deflect an electromagnet, moving a marker and producing written codes on a strip of paper, had been invented by Samuel Morse in 1838. The line officially opens in 1844.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.

Citationclose

How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.