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  James Anderson, photographer

Born Isaac Atkinson in Blencarn, Cumberland, England on March 11, 1813, he moved to Paris as a young man, where he studied watercolor painting under the name of William Nugent Dunbar. By 1838, he had settled in Rome, where he became a successful sculptor, which necessitated what would be his last name change, to James Anderson. His artistic inclinations naturally led him to the new art of photography, and by 1845, he became a member of a photography cooperative known as Cafe Greco, and operated out of a makeshift studio at Fuori Porta del Popolo N. 6. Mr. Anderson began photographing artistic reproductions, but with experience, he felt confident enough to stray from his comfort level and produce landscape and architectural photographs. His works sold well at Joseph Spithover's bookstore located at 85 Piazza di Spagna. Mr. Anderson married Maria de Mutis, with whom he would have four children, including photographer Domenico Anderson (1854-1938).

In November of 1855, Mr. Anderson became one of the first photographers to explore lunar photography, and captured images of the moon through a Merz telescope at the Roman College. For several years, the two most successful photographers in Rome were U.K. expatriates, James Anderson and his Scottish counterpart, Robert Macpherson. Though initially attracted to the artistic attributes of photography, Mr. Anderson was also a shrewd businessman who was among the first to recognize the commercial aspects of the medium. His first small album of 14 landscapes, simply entitled Rome became so popular among tourists that it was followed up by a catalog of more than 450 images (including cityscapes and museum pieces) that was equally well-received. Mr. Anderson's works were also receiving praise from his contemporaries, with a fellow photographer proclaiming his photographs "the best we have seen."

Within a few years, James Anderson had established himself as the most commercially successful photographer in Rome, and several of his photographs were exhibited at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1855, the Scottish Society of the Photo in 1857, and the London Universal Exhibition in 1862. In terms of composition, his images were frequently studies in contrast, and because he sought to present architecture in its natural form, there was very little in the way of retouching to achieve artistic perfection. His son Domenico joined him in 1870 in a successful partnership that withstood the challenge of an increasingly crowded Rome photographic market. James Anderson died on February 27/28, 1877, but his son continued successful studio operations for several years. The photographic archive of 40,000 negatives was purchased by Fratelli Alinari in 1963. An extensive collection of James Anderson's works can be found at the the J. Paul Getty Museum and digitalized thumbnail images can be easily accessed on its website.

2017 Cloisters at St. Paul's (URL:'s-british-about-1845-1855).

2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 37.

2017 James Anderson (URL:

James Anderson - Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome (URL:

2014 The Last Amateur: The Life of William J. Stillman by Stephen L. Dyson (Albany: State University of New York Press), p. 148.

2017 Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, Sistine Chapel (URL:'s-creation-of-adam-sistine-chapel-british-about-1845-1855).

2015 My Dear BB edited by Robert Cumming (Florence, Italy: The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies), p. 148.

2017 Tivoli, Waterfall with the Temple of Vesta (URL:

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