One of many scenes that involves thoughts after we consider our subsequent journey to Greece is the view as we glance as much as the Acropolis from its surrounds. There it stands proudly, reminding us the entire wonderful historical past of Athens and Classical Greece. This scene has drawn guests to Athens and Greece for hundreds of years. As historian Mary Beard writes “the Acropolis is the centerpiece of each Athenian pilgrimage”. A kind of who got here and sought to doc it within the new know-how of images was the American Philhellene, William Stillman. At the moment I proceed my sequence on celebrating the Greek revolution with the story of William Stillman’s Acropolis.

William James Stillman was born in New York in 1828. A journalist, historian and writer, he was additionally a good friend of the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and the artwork critic John Ruskin. He served for a time as a United States diplomat, a task that will carry him to Greece, the place he would additionally train his talent within the new artwork of images, in addition to recording his account of his Greek experiences in plenty of books.

The Western Portico of the Parthenon. Stillman notes that the graffiti on the columns at left are these left by philhellenes who fought within the conflict of liberation. Plate No. 10. {Photograph} by William Stillman, The Acropolis of Athens, 1870. Picture: Cleveland Museum of Artwork, Inventive Commons/Public Area.

Because the United State Consul on Crete, he noticed the insurrection of 1866-68 and his detailed account of the combat for Cretan liberation from Ottoman rule – “The Cretan Rebellion 1866-7-8” (revealed 1874) – is nicely price a learn, telling the story of the rising intimately. Having visited the Arkadi Monastery a couple of years in the past, I discovered his account of the siege of the monastery significantly transferring. An ardent supporter of the rebellion, he was compelled to go away Crete for the protection of Athens. He additionally befriended the nice excavator of the royal palace at Knossos, Arthur Evans, at one time coaching Evans in journalism for work within the Balkans and even contemplating taking up Evans’ excavations.

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Stillman’s legacy

Mr Stillman wrote an account of his try and observe the path of the mythic warrior Ulysses – “On the Path of Ulysses” (revealed 1888) – and “The Autobiography of a Journalist” (revealed 1901), the latter of which included an account of his time in Greece. He returned to England, the place in 1871 he married the daughter of the Greek Consul, the Pre-Raphaelite artist Marie Spartali, earlier than returning to Greece as a journalist for The Occasions (London) remaining there between 1877 and 1883. In 1879 he turned one of many founding members of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Research in London, to which he additionally gifted most of the negatives of his images of Greece. He died in England in 1901, aged 73.

“View out from the Propylaea Tomb of Philopappus.” Entrance to the Acropolis. This {photograph} taken after the demolition of the Frankish Tower in 1875. Picture: William Stillman, 1882. Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Research (London)

Whereas his many writings deserve higher research, Mr Stillman is known for his distinctive images of the Acropolis of Athens, documenting the constructing and its surrounds. A believer in the great thing about Classical design, Stillman would write that he needed to {photograph} the location “intelligently” and “to point out the technical traits of Greek structure.”

His Acropolis images have been taken throughout two separate visits to Athens and revealed in two albums. The primary sequence of photographs have been photographed in 1869 after his arrival in Athens from Crete and have been revealed privately in 1870. On his return to Athens from England, Mr Stillman re-photographed the Acropolis in 1882 and revealed some 78 images (together with re-photographs of Acropolis scenes from 1869 in addition to images of different Athenian monuments such because the Choragic Monument to Lysicrates and the Church of St Eleutherios, the fashionable day Church of Panagia Gorgoepikos Agios Eleftherios) in a second album, titled Athene 1882. A few of his Acropolis images have been additionally re-published in his On the Observe of Ulysses revealed in 1888.

A dedicated Philhellene, Mr Stillman dedication in documenting the Acropolis needs to be understood within the context of the know-how at hand. The photographic course of was extraordinarily arduous, requiring the organising of a giant photographic equipment, composing and taking the pictures and the strategy of wet-collodion printing.
The primary publication is entitled merely, “The Acropolis of Athens: Illustrated Picturesquely and Architecturally in Pictures”. The ebook was distinctive in that its focus was on one constructing versus the bodily stays of classical Greece per se. The ebook is imposing in measurement and execution, comprising 25 carbon prints on paper, with easy captions reverse. It’s thought-about to be amongst the extra vital photographic publications of the interval. As teachers have written, “for a newcomer to the medium Mr Stillman’s photographs are exceptional for his or her poise and readability.”

READ MORE: The first photographs of the Acropolis

“View from the Nympheum.” Acropolis and Hymettus from Museum Hill. Picture: William Stillman, 1882. Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Research (London).

Viewing his images one can actually see that they reveal each the great thing about the Acropolis in addition to its technical and architectural achievement. He captures the Acropolis in its pure panorama, its buildings surrounded by rubble. On this he additionally captures the Acropolis in transition. The damaged masonry might be because it lay following the Venetian bombardment of 1683, the stone of the Parthenon remains to be fire-blackened from the explosion of the gunpowder that had been saved there. The Frankish Tower, erected within the center ages close to the doorway stairway to the Acropolis, is seen in his early images, however had been demolished by the point he returned. Throughout William’s assortment we will see images of the scene each earlier than and after the Tower was demolished.
However taking a look at them collectively you possibly can think about your self strolling in Mr Stillman’s footsteps, as he views it from a distance, on the method and as he ascends the stairway to the summit. Right here he catches his first view of the mighty Parthenon and the close by Erechtheion. Approaching the Parthenon, he appears to be like intimately at among the marble rubble at foot after which proceeds to enter the ruins of the constructing, strolling amongst its colonnaded surrounds and eventually getting into the centre of the constructing.

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The artwork of images

Ten of the pictures are of the Acropolis itself, 4 from inside searching. These inside images are uncommon for the time and show Mr Stillman’s need to scientifically doc the constructing from a spread of angles. That is additionally mirrored in his captions (reproduced right here in quotations), which not solely state the information contained within the picture, but in addition present locational element which might help the viewer who’s planning his personal tour to duplicate that of Mr Stillman. As one educational evaluation states his images reveal that he needed to duplicate the expertise of a customer, on a typical itinerary, following the route prescribed within the journey guides of the day.

These are a formidable sequence of images, hardly equalled and capturing the Acropolis as the brand new Greece approached the top of the nineteenth century. The inventiveness of Mr Stillman’s eye is revealed in his {photograph} taken from throughout the highest of the Parthenon’s Western Portico (Plate No. 13 in his 1870 assortment), with its angular traces, the element of the stone drawing the viewer throughout and into trendy Athens which lies past.

The images of Mr Stillman have change into a part of the heritage of Greece. As we transfer in the direction of the celebration of the bicentenary of the Greek Revolution, we must always keep in mind these stunning photographs, capturing the mighty Acropolis within the many years after the liberation of Greece. It could be nice if these photographs could possibly be exhibited in Australia – and Greece.

The story of Mr Stillman and his connection to Greece supplies yet one more instance of how Greece’s bicentenary is a chance to have fun the work of such philhellenes and to carry these tales from internationally into the celebration of Hellenic tradition in 2021.

“Theatre of Bacchus.” Theatre of Dionysus from South displaying Auditorium. {Photograph} by William Stillman, 1882. Picture: Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Research (London)

Jim Claven is a skilled historian, freelance author and writer of Lemnos & Gallipoli Revealed: A Pictorial Historical past of the Anzacs within the Aegean 1915-16. A scholar of Greek historical past and tradition, he has researched the Hellenic hyperlink to Anzac throughout each world wars. For extra info readers are referred to Stephen Dyson’s The final Beginner: The Lifetime of William J. Stillman. Readers can view Stillman’s second quantity of Acropolis images – Athene 1882 – on-line on the following hyperlink: Jim may be contacted at

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