David Cameron was the son of a Protestant minister. He studied at evening classes in Glasgow and at the Royal Institution in Edinburgh in 1885. Cameron began engraving at the age of 18. He first exhibited in Glasgow and achieved success at a young age. He exhibited at the 'Secession' exhibition in Berlin and in Munich. In 1893 he was awarded medals in Antwerp and Chicago, in 1895 a silver medal in Brussels, in 1897 a gold medal in Dresden, in 1900 a gold medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle and in 1905 a gold medal in Munich. In 1919 he taught at the British School in Rome. Cameron was knighted in 1924. He became an associate member of the Royal Scottish Academy and a member of the Society of Watercolourists of England and of Scotland. He contributed to several publications and magazines and also illustrated literary works including An Elegy by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1896 and the Story of the Tweed by H. Maxwell in 1905.
Cameron became one of the most influential artists of the Glasgow School, who, like their French counterparts, promoted the custom of open-air painting. His paintings and engravings were preceded by numerous preparatory drawings.
By 1890, Cameron was at his best and proved this in two etchings entitled Kitchen in the Highlands; Greenock. He drew, painted and engraved subjects that he encountered on his travels and was particularly attracted by architectural landscapes. In 1892 Cameron published Views of Holland, which includes the well-known plate Stormy Sunset. It was the following series of views that made his reputation: the 1896 Views of North Italy and the 1900 Views of London which includes the plates The Admiralty, The Customs and Newgate acclaimed by the art critic Frederick Wedmore who drew up the catalogue of Cameron's work in 1903 when the artist was still only 38 years old. After the publication of the catalogue other works followed: the 1907 Views of Belgium and the 1909 Views of Paris.
Cameron is often compared with Meryon and considered to be his successor in the engraving of Romantic architecture, often depicted under dramatic lighting effects such as storms and sunsets. He is also seen as revealing a Post-Impressionist style which allies him to Whistler. In Cameron's landscape paintings the Post-Impressionist influence is even more marked. He was directly inspired by Gauguin and worked in flat tints of clear colour in the manner of the Nabis.
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Dundee (University Fine Art Collection): Lunan Bay, Angus (c. 1911, oil on canvas)
Edinburgh (Nat. Gal. of Scotland): The Royal Scottish Academy Building and the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh (1916, etching and droint/paper); The Warning Light (watercolour/paper)
Edinburgh (Royal Scottish Academy): The Norman Arch (1919, oil on canvas)
Greenock (McLean Mus. and AG): Highland Landscape (oil on canvas); The Peaks of Assynt (oil on canvas)
Liverpool (Walker AG): Nightfall, Luxor (c. 1910, oil on canvas)
London (Imperial War Mus.): The Battlefield of Ypres (1919, oil on canvas)
London (Tate Collection): Ben Ledi (1914, oil on canvas); Stirling Castle (c. 1914, oil on canvas); Rue du Bourg, Chartres (oil on canvas)