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Mrs. Marian Murray (married John Murray III, the publisher, in 1847)Enlarge image

Mrs. Marian Murray (married John Murray III, the publisher, in 1847), 1847 ?

David Octavius Hill; Robert Adamson
British, 1821 - 1848
salted paper print
21.1 x 15.5 cm
Purchased 1977
National Gallery of Canada (no. 31258)

portrait, single, female, exterior;
Marian Murray, née Marian Smith, was the wife of John Murray III, owner of the famous London publishing house. This is hardly a portrait in the traditional sense. Why Hill should have chosen to show the back is not known, but he was inspired no doubt by the formal beauty of her hair style and dress and the manner in which the bodice absorbed light and the skirt reflected a shimmering silkiness. One of Hill's and Adamson's most charming images, its rich tones are possible only in the salted paper process. Hill's hand is in evidence in the highlights, which have been enhanced with graphite pencil on the negative. Hill's and Adamson's photographs have been called the first artistically successful use of W.H.F. Talbot's calotype process, invented only several years before their partnership was formed. Talbot's process appealed to Hill because of the way the coarseness of the paper negative combined with the matte surface of the salted paper print to suppress surface information, permitting him to see his subjects in terms of the masses of light and shadow that formed his vision as a painter. The partnership thrived on Hill's artistic eye and Adamson's technical skill. Their portraits are recognized as the final flowering of a great tradition of British portraiture extending from Reynolds and Gainsborough to Ramsey and Raeburn.

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