For other people named William Linton, see William Linton (disambiguation).
William James Linton (December 7, 1812 – December 29, 1897) was an English-born American wood-engraver, landscape painter, political reformer and author of memoirs, novels, poetry and non-fiction.
Birth and early years
Born in Mile End, east London, his family moved to Stratford, Essex in 1818. The young Linton was educated at Chigwell Grammar School, an early 17th-century foundation attended by many sons of the Essex and City of London middle classes.
Aged 15, Linton was apprenticed to the wood-engraver George Wilmot Bonner (1796–1836). His earliest known work is to be found in John Martin and Richard Westall's Pictorial Illustrations of the Bible (1833). He worked from 1834 to 1836 with William Henry Powis, another pupil of Bonner; but Powis died. Linton then worked for two years for the firm of John Thompson.
After working as a journeyman engraver, losing his money over a cheap political library called the "National," and writing a life of Thomas Paine, Linton went into partnership in 1842 with John Orrin Smith. The firm was immediately employed on the Illustrated London News, just then projected. The following year Orrin Smith died, and Linton, who had married a sister of Thomas Wade, editor of Bell's Weekly Messenger, found himself in sole charge of a business upon which two families were dependent.
Political education and activism
For years he had concerned himself with the social and European political problems of the time, and was now actively engaged in the republican propaganda. In 1844 he took a prominent part in exposing the violation by the English post office of Mazzini's correspondence. This led to a friendship with the Italian revolutionist, and Linton threw himself with ardor into European politics. He carried the first congratulatory address of English workmen to the French Provisional Government in 1848. He edited a twopenny weekly paper, The Cause of the People, published in the Isle of Man, and he wrote political verses for the Dublin Nation, signed "Spartacus." He helped to found the "International League" of patriots, and, in 1850, with GH Lewes and Thornton Leigh Hunt, started The Leader, an organ which, however, did not satisfy his advanced republicanism, and from which he soon withdrew.
The same year he wrote a series of articles propounding the views of Mazzini in The Red Republican. In 1852 he took up his residence at Brantwood, which afterward he sold to John Ruskin, and from there issued The English Republic, first in the form of weekly tracts and afterward as a monthly magazine "a useful exponent of republican principles, a faithful record ef republican progress throughout the world; an organ of propagandism and a medium of communication for the active republicans in England." Most of the paper, which never paid its way and was abandoned in 1855, was written by himself.
In 1852 he also printed for private circulation an anonymous volume of poems entitled The Plaint of Freedom. After the failure of his paper he returned to his proper work of wood-engraving. In 1857 his wife died, and in the following year he married Eliza Lynn (afterward known as Mrs Lynn Linton) and returned to London. In 1864 he retired to Brantwood, his wife remaining in London.
Emigration to the US
In 1867, pressed by financial difficulties, Linton decided to try his fortune in America. He separated from his wife, with whom, however, he remained in touch. With his children he settled at Appledore, Hamden, Connecticut, where he set up a printing-press.
At Hamden Linton he wrote Practical Hints on Wood-Engraving (1879), James Watson, a Memoir of Chartist Times (1879), A History of Wood-Engraving in America (1882), Wood-Engraving, a Manual of Instruction (1884), The Masters of Wood-Engraving, for which he made two journeys to England (1890), The Life of Whittier (1893), and Memories, an autobiography (1895). He died at Hamden on 29 December 1897.
Linton was a singularly gifted man, who, in the words of his wife, if he had not bitten the Dead Sea apple of impracticable politics, would have risen higher in the world of both art and letters. As an engraver on wood he reached the highest point of execution in his own line. He carried on the tradition of Bewick, fought for intelligent as against merely manipulative excellence in the use of the graver, and championed the use of the "white line" as well as of the black, believing with Ruskin that the former was the truer and more telling basis of aesthetic expression in the wood-block printed upon paper.
The standard author abbreviationLinton is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name.
James Walter Robert Linton (1869-1947) and James Alexander Barrow Linton (1904-1980), artists, were father and son. James Walter Robert was born on 14 June 1869 in London, second of eleven children of Sir James Dromgole Linton and his wife Harriet Maria, née Allen. Sir James was an academic watercolourist who fought for the recognition of British art and for watercolour as a medium. The young James was educated in the more adventurous British art schools: under Alphonse Legros at the Slade School of Fine Art in 1885-88; and, later, with Frederick Brown at the Westminster School. In both he learned the importance of drawing and to develop his powers of observation and visual memory. He was briefly articled to the architects Batterbury & Huxley; however his only known architectural work is the Leake memorial fountain in King's Park, Perth (1904).
In 1896 Linton's father sent him to investigate a disappointing investment in the Miner's Dream Gold Mines near Coolgardie, Western Australia. Linton established himself as a merchant in Perth and about 1899 opened the Linton School of Art. On 26 April 1902, at St George's Cathedral, he married a former pupil Charlotte Bates Barrow; they had two sons and a daughter.
That year Linton became art master at Perth Technical School. His infectious enthusiasm influenced casual and serious students alike, and a few achieved recognition in a variety of fields including his son Jamie, Kathleen O'Connor, Hal Missingham and Leslie Rees. Linton emphasized drawing, observation, and the value of construction and introduced to Perth a serious, professional approach to art.
His first commission for craftwork had come in 1901 when he designed a casket to be presented to the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York during their visit to Western Australia. Like much of Linton's later woodwork, it was of local timbers and embellished with carved motifs based on local flora and fauna. In England in 1907-08 he studied metalwork under Harold Stabler. In 1910 the silversmith Arthur Cross joined him in a partnership and they held two joint exhibitions, in 1910 and 1913, before Cross's death in 1917. From 1921 Linton's partner was his elder son James who was born on 15 May 1904 in Perth. Following studies with his father and work with him as a silversmith, Jamie went in 1925 to attend the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London and the Académie Julian in Paris. On his return two years later he worked with his father and their silverware became well known. Often in an Art Nouveau style, it employed abstract twists and interlacings of wire with Western Australian motifs. Linton's work was more abstract than his son's; Jamie's was more representational and sculptural. Linton enjoyed experimenting with his materials, the object's utility taking second place to its artistry; while Jamie, a full-time silversmith, was more alert to function and new technologies.
For fourteen years from 1922 Linton was a trustee of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia. On his retirement from the technical school in 1931, he continued to teach at the Linton Institute of Art until 1938. He moved to Parkerville with a former student Betsey Currie (who changed her name to Linton by deed poll) and lived and worked there until his death.
Linton's watercolours and late oils are among his finest achievements. He depicted Nature through light and was fascinated by skies, the subtle nuances of atmospheric effects and their reflections on the landscape. His family holds a self-portrait.
A small, compact man with a trim Vandyke beard, Linton dressed well with a large, black, silk bow-tie. He was equable and good humoured, quietly spoken but able to hold attention with his stories. He never lowered his standards, although he was patient and persuasive and never denigrated the work of even the dullest student.
Survived by his wife, children and Betsey, Linton died on 29 August 1947 in Perth, and was cremated with Anglican rites. His work is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the National Gallery of Australia, State and regional galleries and many private collections. Retrospective exhibitions were held at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in 1955 and 1977.
Jamie was busy as a silversmith until his death in Perth on 9 May 1980. His wife Marguerite, née Stubbs, whom he had married on 15 December 1934, and five children, including John, also a silversmith, survived him. His silverware is owned by the Queen Mother, the Danish royal family, and the Australian government, and is held in many public and private collections.
Anne Gray, 'Linton, James Walter Robert (1869–1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/linton-james-walter-robert-7202/text12459, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 14 March 2018.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986
View the front pages for Volume 10