Linton- Life in the Collections
New York 1877
This volume contains the first section of a sensational series of wood engravings after the illustrations of James E. Kelly, initiating the fame of a group of young engravers, which later became known as The New School. The responsible art director Alexander Wilson Drake was a trained engraver himself and an ambitious artist. In 1884 he became a founding member of the Grolier Club, the legendary society of bibliophiles, whose activities had substantially supported the artistic reputation of the New School. Together with William Mackay Laffan, the art editor of Harper & Brothers, and Sylvester Rosa Koehler, the first curator of prints at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Drake was one of the main wire-pullers of the international success of this early variation of American hyperrealism.
“Late in the seventies came that new movement in wood-engraving, emphasized with especial éclat in Juengling’s cuts after James E. Kelly’s remarkably free drawings for Scribner’s. In these Kelly designs, the line was absent; it was painted illustration, which we see in preponderance today, and it set problems for the engravers which were quite in line with the tendency to insist on tones and masses. (...) Timothy Cole in 1906 wrote James E. Kelly that The Gillie Boy from a drawing by Kelly, was the first thing of this kind which he engraved and the first ever done, and that he `will always regret. . . that his modesty prevented him from signing it.´ This appeared in Scribner’s for August, 1877. But the illustrations engraved by Frederick Juengling (the `boldest and most inconsiderate experimenter among the pioneers of the new school,´ says Koehler) for articles dealing with the New York police force, the New York aquarium, A Railroad in the Clouds, etc., appearing in Scribner’s Monthly for 1877, made the first obvious, continued assertion of the new point of view. The drawings for these illustrations were executed by James E. Kelly, slapped down in broad brush-marks, blocked in with a disdain of finish. (...) In this series of Kelly-Juengling cuts, designer and engraver absolutely coincided; here was the opportunity to state the newly discovered possibilities of the boxwood and graver in straightforward, unmistakable terms. They came as a shrill trumpet blast to gather adherents to the banner of the new dispensation. Artists, engravers, art editors and the public were fairly caught in the intoxication of this delight in astonishing achievement. One strong voice was raised in warning, that of W. J. Linton. He laid down his principles in an article on Art in Engraving on Wood, which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, and for which he was denounced with some acrimony.” (F. Weitenkampf, American Graphic Art, 1912)