|Dates: ||1800 - 1869|
Wilson is best known in some circles for having been thwarted in his efforts to build houses on Hampstead Heath, a cherished London park. However, he was also an avid photographer and an early calotypist. When he died, the Photographic Journal lamented that the Photographic Society had lost “one of its best and earliest supporters.” Wilson had taken part in the formation of the society in 1853 and served as a member of its first council. Just when he took up calotypy as an amateur is not clear, but the Liverpool Photographic Journal reported that he practiced “the calotype process at a very early date.” Wilson contributed twenty-one Talbotypes and calotypes to the 1854 exhibition of the Photographic Society in London. His impressive range included copies of paintings, formal portraits, genre portraits, architecture, landscape, and some very ambitious attempts not typical of his contemporaries. One was Forest Scene — taken during a storm. The Builder enthused, “Sir Thomas Wilson’s ‘Snow-storm’ (692) is excellent: it is really a snow storm.” The Photographic Journal, comparing his copies of paintings with other attempts, reported, “Sir Thomas M. Wilson has been more successful in his calotype and talbotype copies of pictures by McIan.” When Pauline Trevelyan and her husband, Sir Walter, visited Wilson in 1852, she noted in her diary that they found Wilson “busy making calotype portraits in a glass house he has built on the roof of their house.” Wilson became one of Dr. Hugh Diamond’s first students, learning the new collodion process from him. In the 1858 exhibition of the Photographic Society, Wilson was still showing calotypes, but after that he turned to collodion. He continued to exhibit up to the year of his death.
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007)
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission.
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012.
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