Photographer and Painter

James Paterson RSA

James Paterson RSA  was part of what was termed the 'Glasgow Boys'. He was a painter who lived in Monaive and latterly in Edinburgh.

[Robert Henderson]

He delivered a lecture entitled "Landscape" to Edinburgh Photogrpahic Society on 1 March 1911.


Extracts from Lecture to EPS  -  1 March 1911

"Landscape" by James Paterson

Appreciating Nature

"... several practical people ... are annoyed if they do not see distinctly every object within their range of vision.  The day cannot be too clear, not the sun too bright, not the air too still; but though such conditions may be grateful to the physical side of man, they are seldom, they are seldom coincident with the greatest visual beauty."

"The manifold motions in nature, the sailing clouds, the onrush of waves, the shimmering light on reeds, the trembling of leaves, the sway of branches, the pulsations of the atmosphere, which blend and transform the shapes of things;  in these changes, much of the soul, which seems to underlie creation is revealed."

The Landscape Photographer

"I trust my audience tonight will bear with me in saying that the unintelligent practice of photography, in recent years, has increased the popular prejudice that clearness of vision is equivalent with beauty."

"The ideal day for the average landscape photographer, is that on which not a leaf stirs, the cattle stand still, the sun shines oft of a cloudless sky, and the reflections in the water are more real looking than the trees they mirror."

"The camera enthusiast then thinks he has his chance, and with Georz astigmatic lens, well stopped down, and with extra rapid plates, he secures, what he calls, fine sharp negatives, with plenty of detail, persuading himself, and his friends, that the result is true nature, and, what is more, beautiful."


The ease with which even a child can make the necessary exposures, and secure some kind of visible result, renders many impatient of the difficulties attendant upon a more intimate study of nature's varied features."

"In comparison with drawing, as a means of penetrating and recording for oneself impressions of beautiful things in the world around us, photography is of far inferior value."


"The range of coloured light, in nature, is far beyond our means of accurate representation."

"You have seen dazzling sunlit cumulus clouds rising majestically against what appears a dark blue sky, but the clouds cannot be represented by pure white paint, the highest note on our scale of pigment.  They are full of colour, and yellow and red added to our white paint detract from its lightness."

"The blue sky, again, though dark by contrast with the clouds is full of light, and nearly always is far paler in tone than the lightest object in the landscape, should the sun not be shining directly upon it."

"The landscape itself, however, dark it may seem, has infinite gradations in darkness; and if we try to follow these gradations with our most sombre colours, we reach the lower end of our scale, black, long before the deeper tones in nature have been indicated."

"It is evident that pictorial representation must even be of the nature of a compromise; absolute truth is impossible , and the artist, whether he wish it or not, must select , from the coloured tones in nature, those which he requires for his purposes."

Transactions of Edinburgh Photographic Society, April 1911,  pp. 5-9