Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections


February 1880

Bound copies.

Harper’s New Monthly had invited seven of the most distinguished exponents of American wood engraving to respond to Linton’s criticism in a 12-page article: A.V.S. Anthony, Timothy Cole, John Parke Davis, Frederick Juengling, Richard Mueller, John Tinkney and Henry Wolf . With the exception of his old buddy A.V.S. Anthony, all of Linton’s colleagues countered with a heavy load of harsh criticism of his own idiosyncratic engraving style. “Mr. Linton has done a great deal for wood-engraving. For a long time I have constantly referred to him in my work. (...) But I wouldn’t take the liberty he does with an artists design. (...) Mr. Linton is incapable of getting an artists spirit and outlines. Fine work he has done, but that is not to say that he has represented the artist in it. You can not tell how much finer the artists work was than the engraving. Mr. Linton has failed so many times, in so many things that I have seen, to get the feeling of the artist. There is too much mannerism in his work, his engravings all look alike. That’s what I call mannerism.“ (Timothy Cole) “Mr. Linton’s engravings always suggest Mr. Linton. They do not remind you of the original artists.” (Henry Wolf) “Instead of losing himself, as every true engraver should, he preserves and protrudes himself.” (Frederick Juengling)

The whole debate resulted in an ideological matter of principle. Whereas Linton considered the artisan in his position equal to the artist as a cooperator and translator of his work, the members of the New School regarded it either subordinate, like Timothy Cole, or completely null, like Frederick Juengling. “The engraver, you see, holds a secondary position to the artist, does he not? Well, it would seem natural that when seeing an engraving of a drawing you should recognize the artist first and not the engraver: Drawn by So-and-so, engraved by So-and-so. But when looking at an engraving of Mr. Lintons you say instinctively, Engraved by So-and-so, drawn by So-and-so, just reversing the order.” (Timothy Cole) “It is neither the duty nor the right of the engraver to make any change in the work that he has set himself to reproduce. He is not to be the critic of that work; he is neither to improve nor to alter it. (... ) I do not say translate, because translate is too elastic a term. What I mean by reproducing is bringing the original work (...) as close to the spectator’s eye as possible. (... ) The method of the Old School is to adapt the original to the means; the method of the New School is to adapt the means to the original. With the New School nothing is theoretically impossible, and no means are illegitimate.” (Frederick Juengling)