Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections


New York 1878

This volume contains the third section of the challenging series of Kelly-engravings, most of them executed by Frederick Juengling. It also includes a long article by Linton, The Engraver. His Function and Status, where he enfolds his open and anti-hierarchical view on art. This contribution is of major interest as it was the prelude to a protracted media debate, which took place in the foremost American journals. Linton´s leading figures of reference in terms of an artistic level of engraving were Albrecht Dürer, William Hogarth and, with top priority, William Blake. In his article he counters a statement in The New York Evening Post saying that „Wood-Engravers, properly speaking, are not artists, nor do artists, as a rule, recognize them as such.“ Referring to this Linton asks: „Is an engraver an Artist? And I have to answer - Not necessarily so. Which, as an excellent painter and critic observes, is true of painters and of sculptors likewise.“ He points out that the praised woodcuts by Dürer or Holbein can be called art only in terms of the designs, whereas „the cutting was done by mechanics. There is no Art in the cutting. (...)  The poorest Chinaman could not mistake the firm-drawn lines.“ The particular tool  would not affect the question of artist or mechanic. „The sort of work that carries the names of the brothers Dalziel is, I believe, done mainly with the graver; but is as mechanical, and very far from as mechanically perfect, as the Durer and Holbein knife-work of between three and four centuries ago. The graver- work of the London Graphic (not always, but the exceptions expose the rule, and I name the Graphic, not as notably bad, but as easy for reference) is for the most part merely mechanical. That in Punch is the same, though the practiced hand of Tenniel has led to a pleasant delicacy in his cutters. All these works, and much other work likewise, may be set down as mechanism,but seldom of Japanese ability. The poor mechanic - Chinese-like, not Japanese - carves out laboriously the white spots left for his dull, monotonous hand-practice, and has no pretension to be called an Artist. (...) The copper-engravers work is precisely that of the draughtsman on wood or paper. Is the artists hand less traceable in Dürers engravings than in his paintings? And his drawings on wood were only less finished because he left them to mechanics, on account of the material and the purpose for which they were required. Of Hogarth we may say the same. Painter or engraver, he is never less than Artist. (...) The first (of the wood-engravers), in time and talent, was Thomas Bewick. Not known as a painter: a mere wood-engraver, and but an experimenter at that. Nevertheless, if there is room at the table (not in any Royal Academy, of course) where Blake has so lately taken his seat beside Hogarth, set a third plate, or only a wooden platter, for the Engraver of the British Birds! (....) He who works in Art, artfully, artistically, is an Artist, whatever his subject, whatever his material, whatever his tools. The relative grandeur and importance of this or that branch of Art is altogether beside the question. Great as was Blake for his power as a designer, unrivaled as he is as a colorist, he had been not less than an Artist had he been only an engraver. (...) Art is the truthful representation of the Beautiful. The question of the Grotesque seems to contradict this; but, I believe, only seems. The Tragic and the Comic, High Art and Caricature, all are under the same law. (...) Art, I repeat, is the truthful representation of the Beautiful. He who can see beauty and truthfully render it, is an Artist, whatever tools he may use, and in whatever material he may work. It is altogether a most false and invidious distinction which would shut out the engraver, the worker in metal, or the wood-carver from the Guild of Art. For me, I would admit the photographer also, whenever his work gave evidence of an artistic spirit. The boundaries of Art are well enough defined; but within them should be no division into castes.“