Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

William H. Brandt:

66) Interpretive Wood-Engraving: The Story of the Society of American Wood-Engravers.

New Castle, Delaware. 2009

This first monograph of the Society of American Wood Engravers is the industrious work of a professional botanist and print enthusiast. It provides readers with a series of fifty prints, finely reproduced in full size and duo tone, and detailed information on its history, its technical conditions, numerous members, and a list of their collective exhibitions and the prizes, they won. In an additional chapter, Brandt explains what one would have to consider if one intended to collect wood engravings. In his press release, the commendable Oak Knoll Press reckons with the nostalgic and patriotic need of its audience by envisioning “the warm glow of a remarkable era” and the pride, which the readers will take “in this little-known period of American art history.”

What this long overdue work on artificial photoxylography does not achieve, is to work out the specific features of the American School in contrast to its European competitors and to reflect its accomplishments in terms of media theory. It takes account of Linton’s dispute with the New School, but fails to get to the bottom of it; it even fails to discuss the key term of interpretation, which is used in the headline, on a proper level. Brandt refers to interpretative engraving as somehow synonymous with reproductive engraving, but somehow complementary to imitative engraving. If the hyperrealism of the New School were only about interpreting coloured originals on the level of black and white, it would never have caused such a sensation and would never have tempted Linton to accuse them of self-annihilation and mechanical slave work.