Linton- Life in the Collections
16) The English Lakes.
London - Windermere. 1858
Subheading: “Illustrated with steel engravings, woodcuts by W. J. Linton. Outlines of the Mountains, and a Map coloured geologically, by John Ruthven. To which is added an appendix containing the Meteorology of the Lake District; an Account of its Flowering Plants, Ferns, and Mosses; an outline of its Geology and Mineralogy; and a table of the heights of the Mountains.”
Harriet Martineau had moved to the Lake District in 1845 and lived nearby Linton’s residency in Brantwood. She had started her career as a journalist with articles for the Unitarian Monthly Repository and had become famous for her committed writings and social analyses advocating Poor Law reform and Abolitionism. Linton engraved forty-five plates for Martineau’s domestic travelogue. They were sumptuously printed on India paper. “These richly textured, loving evocations of the picturesque are among the finest engravings he ever made. They abide as memorials to the tenderness of the Linton’s life at Brantwood.” (F.B. Smith)
It was the extraordinary intensity of his landscape depictions and the graphic freedom that he allowed himself to this end that had laid the foundations for Linton’s reputation as a leading proponent of artistic xylography in the 19th century. This first series of Lake engravings focuses entirely on the graphic power of an often extremely reduced lineament, in contrast to the more painterly steel engravings and chromolithographs of the Martineau book. It was the direct translation of impressions of nature that later made Linton’s Lake engravings much sought-after study objects for a young generation of Impressionist xylographers. As John P. Davis conceded in his article in the Century Magazine in 1889, they “meant art to us, and the lines he cut were, in lieu of nature, our wonder and study.” Many of the Lake engravings, especially when comparing them to the xylographic standard of the times, indeed convey the impression as if they were cut directly before the motif.