Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/126

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Chapter III

The Beginning of Wood-Engraving—Black and White (1582–1743)

1. General Considerations—2. Moronobu and his Contemporaries—3. The first Torii and Masanobu—4. Book-Illustration in the first half of the eighteenth century

1. General Considerations.—Those who are not well informed on the history of Japanese wood-engraving, and whose ideas are formed only from chance prints that they may have seen, will generally suppose that we are here speaking of an art which flourished especially in the nineteenth century, and that Hokusai, of whom most is heard, is its chief representative. But this point of view, which has prevailed quite long enough, and which has been encouraged by the over-estimation of Hokusai even on the part of the better informed, may now be considered as abandoned, thanks to the continued efforts of Fenollosa. As in so many other branches of the history of art, so also in the art of Japan, a theory is beginning to make headway to the effect that its heroic age was not merely a time of preparation, but rather the actual high-water mark of the whole movement, and that all subsequent to it constituted only the development of the original germs, without adding anything essentially new, without even attaining the power of those first periods. In a history of the Japanese woodcut, accordingly, the chief centre of interest is the development of the eighteenth century; and this period must in turn