Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/118

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JAPANESE COLOUR-PRINTS

a tolerable imitator of Tanyu. The Tosa school, for its part, produced in the seventeenth century, as its last representative worth mentioning, Mitsuoki, the grandson of Mitsunobu, whom Fenollosa considers a fair but rather feeble painter, and whose best work is in his flower-pieces. Mitsuoki's great-grandson, Mitsuyoshi, continued his manner in the eighteenth century.

This entire art of the seventeenth century is characterised by Fenollosa as the art of a period of decadence. Only four great artists, like oases, appear conspicuous—Sansetsu, Sotatsu, Itcho, and Korin. We will quote in his own words his description of the spiritual conditions then obtaining:—

"On the other hand, in the seventeenth century, the Japanese mind fell largely into indolence and triviality. There was no healthy outlet for greatness under the crushing despotic political system. Society was occupied with innumerable formalisms and petty conceits. What had once been the living rules and ideals of living heroes dwindled away into romantic traditions and unreal affectations. It was then that the Japanese learned to be dissipated and deceitful. Puppet-shows and cock-fights and courtesans and midnight escapades now absorbed the energies of the young bloods whose grandfathers had conquered Corea. The art of this period reflects truly the character of the times. The greater part of it is taken up with representations of the famous public women of the day, of actors and jugglers and drunken gentlemen and beastly obscenities; with irreverent caricatures of gods, the gloss and glitter of fine garments, trivial half-minute sketches which drove wild the shallow-pated bibbers of tea, and old Chinese designs in their twentieth dilution to suit the delicate taste of the age. No doubt the Yedo despots were well pleased to see the dear people so happy and contented with their innocent amusements. There are, of course, many delightful and some new characteristics of the art of this epoch;