Melton prior Institut

Linton

Linton- Life in the Collections

William James Linton:

61) The History of Wood Engraving in America,

Boston, 1882

Signed and numbered copy;

While writing his polemic Some practical Hints, Linton began to assemble material for a history of American xylography. Linton asked his fellow engravers to name their best works and to submit specimens for his project. The respect for the old engraver was apparently so great that even his most acrimonious adversaries replied. The history first appeared in 1880 as a succession of eight articles in Sylvester Rosa Koehler’s new journal The American Art Review. While the first three chapters display the development of American xylography, beginning with its initial practitioner Alexander Anderson, a follower of Bewick, in the following four chapters he increasingly shifts to a criticism of the methods and views of the New School. His intention was “not merely to supply a dry chronicle” but to write ”in praise or blame as seemed just to me, distinctly from a desire to help the advance of wood-engraving in America.”


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In allusion to Linton’s personal history, a reviewer of The American Architect found reasons enough to question the even-handedness of the publication: “The History of wood-engraving in America remains to be written by someone who shall really be a historian, and not a partisan pamphleteer.” A defence of the work was provided in 1912 by Frank Weitenkampf in his survey on American Graphic Art from the perspective of the twentieth century’s understanding of expressiveness in art: “The critical and historical account of the development of the art, particularly during 1840-70, will always make this an indispensable book of reference. The portion relating to the work of the New School is of interest and value on account of the comments on the numerous examples given. Linton, while evidently striving to be fair, protested vehemently against an undue and slavish devotion to textures and tones, to ultra-refinement. He found, too often, the essential sacrificed to the unessential, while at the same time the very distinction of substance aimed at was missed. It was the tendency to render substance rather than spirit, to imitate brush-marks rather than to imitate essentials, to which he objected.”


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Linton´s self-promotion

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The New School: Examples by Timothy Cole, Frederic Juengling and Gustave Kruell

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