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Linton, James Walter Robert (1869–1947)

by Anne Gray

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

This is a shared entry with James Alexander Barrow Linton

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.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Gray (compiler), James W. R. Linton 1869-1947 (Perth, 1977)
  • L. Hunt (ed), Westralian Portraits (Perth, 1979)
  • Art in Australia, Nov 1935, p 49
  • Art and Australia, 16 (June 1979), no 4, p 364
  • Milday, 1 (Jan 1949), p 27
  • West Australian, 17 Dec 1927, 23 Feb 1929, 14 May 1980
  • Daily News (Perth), 17 July 1967
  • J. W. R. Linton notebooks and papers (Western Australian Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia and State Library of Western Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

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 19 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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