Silversmith, sculptor and painter, known as Jamie, was the elder son of J. W. R. and Charlotte Linton, n_e Barrow. He was born on 9 May 1904. Linton was educated at South Perth Primary School and Hale School. Not being academically minded, he preferred scouring the local bush for animals or collecting wildflowers to study. This interest in native flora and fauna remained with him all his life. Linton was interested in metalwork from an early age, helping in his father’s studio using tools he was given when seven years old.

In his formative years Linton had close contact with a number of artist-metalsmiths. Indeed, their work must almost have seemed to him a natural occupation for apart from family, friends and neighbours, Herbert Gibbs, John C. Horgan, Francesco Vanzetti and his father, there were also the full-time silversmiths – Arthur Cross, his father’s partner, who lived with the family until his death and Gordon Holdsworth in Hester where holidays were frequently spent. These men made their living as artist-silversmiths and were role models for the boy. Linton left school in 1920 and went to work for his father, making the cutlery that was in demand. Even though he is not listed in the examination results until 1923, it is probable that he also attended Perth Technical School from that time. In 1923 and 1924 Linton is recorded as passing 'Light and Shade’ and 'Modelling 1 & 2’ with credit.

Linton embarked on his public career in Perth in 1922. He began by exhibiting with the West Australian Society of Arts at the annual exhibition held in December in the Industries Hall in Barrack Street. Two of Linton’s exhibits were copper caskets. The critic for the West Australian wrote “Applied art forms an exhibition in its self. ... Mr J. Linton, junior, shows himself to be worthily following in his father’s footsteps.” In 1925, when Linton exhibited again with the West Australian Society of Arts, his exhibits included oils, watercolours, a portrait bust of his father and a design for a fountain.

In the summer of 1925-26 Linton sailed to Europe on the Oronsay. His father had provided him with an allowance to further his silversmithing studies at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. In June 1926, Hal Missingham joined Linton and together they set off for Paris. Here they studied at the Acad_mie Julian headed by the elderly Emile-Antoine Bourdelle but staffed by visiting lecturers. The studies were from life with work in drawing, painting and modelling being undertaken with great enthusiasm by the young Western Australians. In October on returning to the Central School he continued life-classes with Alfred Turner and took architectural modelling. The latter was his principal work as he hoped to become a sculptor.

Linton returned to Western Australia via the eastern States, arriving in 1928 to a town in a building boom. There was a new spirit of collaboration between industry and artists, trumpeted in newspaper advertisements by large manufacturers. This legitimised Linton, the artist, working as a craftsman. He was soon engaged in modelling decorative plasterwork and sculpture for the elegant Capitol Theatre and the exotic Ambassador’s Theatre, both now demolished. The Wall Street crash of October 1929 and the change to the plainer modern architecture, not to mention the number of trained sculptural modellers in the State such as Edward Kohler and the Wunderlich and Tindale workers, soon put an end to his ambitions in this type of work and Linton returned to art-metalsmithing and painted in his spare time. The low point came in mid-1931 when Linton taught at the Technical School, relieving A. B. Webb, but he did not enjoy the experience and opened his own premises. He put more effort into an exhibition he had with his friends Beatrice Darbyshire and Edith Trethowan in Orient House in December that year. It was described as:

One of the most pleasing little exhibitions of painting in oils, etchings, portrait drawings, wood engravings, modelling etc., which has been seen in Perth in recent years. ... Mr J. Linton junr, a painter with a strongly developed sense of colour values; ... exhibits a dozen oils, besides several cleverly modelled portrait busts, plaques, and metalwork in beaten and oxidised silver and enamels on bronze of great attraction both in design and execution.

The fact that Linton had recently been in Paris recommended him to those who could still afford to buy silver. Style, for those interested in such matters, still stemmed from France and in those lean years Linton had this to commend him. The 1930s style was very much a case of re-interpreting old ideas. One motif popular in Western Australia was the sailing ship seen at the turn of the century. It had been given a new lease of life worldwide in 1935 with the decorative panels, illustrating the history of navigation, made for the French liner Normandie. These were widely publicised and had considerable influence.

Linton with no industry to design for was excluded from full participation in the international style, even though many of his sketches would have been quite suited to industrial processing. His plump new shapes for teapots and restraint on decorative elements were mostly adopted without the semblance of a machine finish stressed by the advocates of industrial design. To remove the hammer marks for a smooth finish added another twenty per cent of time, thereby increasing the cost. Retaining them gave the pieces the cachet of individuality that clients appreciated. The use of a hand-beaten surface was thus faster to produce than a polished surface, but also easier to maintain in households where servants were becoming a rarity. This became the preferred finish in Western Australia for client and maker alike. Jamie continued it even when a polished finish became fashionable in the 1960s, for by then it had become his trademark.

Linton joined the Perth Society of Artists when a number of the professionals became concerned to protect their livelihood against the inroads of 'amateurs’. In 1934 Linton married Marguerite Stubbs, an art student and in 1935 moved his studio to their home. They had two children John and Linley. Marguerite exhibited occasionally. In 1944 she exhibited with the Western Australian Women’s Society of Fine Arts and Crafts. In 1935 both Linton and his father were featured in an article in Art in Australia. In 1937 in the survey exhibition of Western Australian work from 1826 Linton exhibited two oil paintings. George Benson, wearing his critic’s hat, wrote, “Two oils by J. A. B. Linton are notable for their freshness of colour, crispness of light, and decorative intent”.

During World War II Linton was 'manpowered’ to work at Tomlinson Steel. There should have been little scope for decorative arts yet, despite material shortages and rationing, he was able to make several large commissions. Linton returned to full-time silversmithing as soon as possible after the war, taking Terry Walsh as an apprentice. The workshop became a hive of activity. War-surplus materials were used to construct machines for the workshop. In 7 Designers in 1948 Jamie exhibited thirty-six groups: serving spoons, sweet spoons, ice-cream spoons, coffee and teaspoons, sugar spoons, cake slices and forks, a mint sauce ladle and other pieces. It was a major undertaking. A few of the pieces exhibited have been identified, including the Gumnut, Geraldton Wax and Banksia. These were the first of a series of finely modelled and botanically accurate cutlery based on Western Australian wildflowers.

Immediately after the war Linton was the most accomplished silversmith in Australia with a very busy workshop making major commissions for the East, South and West Coasts, and exhibiting in prestigious exhibitions. In the prosperity of Western Australia in the 1960s, Linton found himself very much in demand. In 1964 Linton was joined by his son-in-law George Lucas, whom he taught to make the traditional work of the studio. He retired in the 1970s and died in 1980. His work was continued by George Lucas and his son John. His granddaughter has become a jeweller too.

Dr Dorothy Erickson
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