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The National Gallery and Royal Institution (Royal Scottish Academy), Edinburgh

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The National Gallery and Royal Institution (Royal Scottish Academy), Edinburgh About 1858

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
The unusual viewpoint of this photograph creates a powerful composition and allows for the juxtaposition of different building styles in nineteenth-century Edinburgh. Immediately on the right is the Scottish National Gallery, designed by William Playfair and only just completed when this picture was taken. Further along is the Royal Institution, now the Royal Scottish Academy, which was also designed by Playfair but built some thirty years earlier. Both buildings contrast strikingly with the Life Association Head Office on Princes Street, with its busy façade and Venetian-style balconies. Designed by David Rhind, it was completed in the same year as the National Gallery. In the late 1960s, however, the building was demolished and replaced by a modern department store.

Glossary Open


The arrangement of different elements in a work of art.


The external face of a building, usually referring to the most important, such as that facing the street or containing the main entrance.

Royal Scottish Academy

The Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) was formed in Edinburgh in 1826 by Scottish artists who felt alienated by what they perceived as the elitism of the Royal Institution and its management of contemporary art exhibitions. In 1835, the RSA secured exhibition rights in the Royal Institution building, which had been erected on The Mound by the Board of Manufactures in 1826. The RSA and the Board frequently argued over responsibilities for advanced art education. From 1859, the RSA shared the premises of the new National Gallery of Scotland under the Board’s custody. In 1910, after transferring most of its art collections to the Gallery, the RSA gained exclusive tenancy of the former Royal Institution building, where it continues to hold large-scale annual exhibitions.

Composition, Façade, Royal Scottish Academy


  • Acc. No. PGP R 128
  • Medium Albumen print
  • Size 21.10 x 26.30 cm
  • Credit Gift of Mrs. Riddell in memory of Peter Fletcher Riddell, 1985