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Home » PHOTOGRAPHY » FINE TASTE SUBJECTS AND SKILL PICTURES – Robert Turnbull Macpherson, the father of photography, in the Eternal City

FINE TASTE SUBJECTS AND SKILL PICTURES – Robert Turnbull Macpherson, the father of photography, in the Eternal City

I am a photographer, without any feeling that by doing, so I have abandoned art

At the beginning of the 1860s, his photographic career was at the zenith, with exhibitions in Edinburgh and London. Nothing is know about the childhood of this Scottish photographer, but we have news of him about his medical studies at the University of Edinburgh. Robert Turnbull Macpherson was born in Dalkeith, a Scottish city on the River Esk, on a day in February 1814. Without finishing his medical studies, he continued his studies at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh, where he exhibited some of his portraits. In 1840, he left Scotland to face the journey to Rome, where he died on a day in November 1872.

During his career as a photographer, he made 1,019 photographs. He was the first photographer authorized to photograph inside the Vatican. During the early Roman years, Robert Turnbull Macpherson continued to work as a painter, but also as an art dealer. In 1846, after cleaning the old painting he had purchased, identified as an unfinished work by Michelangelo. A few years later, he sold sold to the National Gallery in London. He fell in love with a seventeen year old, Louisa Gerardine Bate, grandson of art historian Anna Jameson, marrying her in Ealing, in 1849.

Having failed as a painter, from 1851 Robert Turnbull Macpherson turned to a new art form, that of photography. Five years later, he experimented with collodion albumin on his photographic plates. To highlight Roman architecture with exceptional detail, he used large format negatives and long exposure times. With his accurate composition of the scenes, he was skilled in capturing three-dimensional relationships, using a two-dimensional photographer. With woodcuts elaborated by his wife, starting from his photographs, in 1863 he published Vatican Sculptures, a guide on 125 Vatican sculptures. Part of his photographs are at the British School, at Rome.

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