Linton- Life in the Collections
William James Linton:
23) Thirty Pictures by deceased British Artists engraved expressly for the Art Union of London by W. J. Linton.
“At Brantwood, my literary work being unremunerative, I continued my engraving, fortunate in being engaged by the Art Union of London to execute a series of cuts after the works of Deceased British Painters, some from my own drawings.” (Memories) This series of reproductions after pictures of Constable, Reynolds, Turner, Gainsborough, Fuseli, Blake and others helped to consolidate a confident position of the engraver as a creative interpreter, shortly before it was called into question by new means of photographic reproduction. A comparison between Linton’s interpretations and those which were executed based on the same motifs decades later by xylographers of the New School reveal the astonishing freedom of translation which Linton availed himself of. Whereas later xylographers used to render the exposure of the photographic image, the process of translation in Linton’s case had been a twofold one, as it had been an interpreting drawing, which stood between the original and the executed engraving. Accordingly, the book also lists the names of the transferring draughtsmen beside those of the painters. In the case of William Blake’s Death Door it had been Linton himself who had executed this first stage of interpretation. This image by Blake became iconic in the course of the 19th century and a kind of trademark of Linton himself. He would repeatedly reuse it in different contexts during the following decades.