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The Exhibition

Born into humble beginnings in Forglen, Aberdeenshire, George Washington Wilson (1823–93) rose to become one of the most successful commercial photographers in the world. Wilson began his professional career as a portrait painter but quickly embraced the new medium that was photography in the early 1850s. His defining moment came when he was commissioned to photograph the construction of the new Balmoral Castle in 1854. From that moment on, Wilson self-styled himself as ‘Photographer to the Queen', a title that was officially ratified in 1873 as 'Photographer to Her Majesty in Scotland'.

Wilson is best known for his Scottish landscape work in areas immortalised within the pages of Sir Walter Scott's novels as well as contemporary guidebooks. The artist photographer had an eye not only for the Picturesque, but also for commercial opportunities, with examples of his work available to buy across the whole of the United Kingdom. By the time of his death, Wilson & Co. was one of the most successful landscape photography publishing businesses in the world.

George Washington Wilson's early photography

Wilson trained as an artist but took up photography in 1852

Tourism and photography

The growing appeal of Scotland as a tourist destination led to a demand for photographic souvenirs

The final years of G.W. Wilson & Co.

Following Wilson's retirement the Wilson & Co. business was run by his sons

Mapping Wilson's views

Use this map to see the geographic spread of Wilson's views