Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/137

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BEGINNING OF WOOD-ENGRAVING

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this time of a true theatre, which had developed from the old puppet-shows, is connected the fact that since 1677 little plays were being printed, which in turn soon attracted illustrators. Fenollosa[1] a draws attention to the otsuyé, slight sketches produced in great quantities for popular consumption, as being precursors of the artistic single-sheet print which began to be developed in the last decades of the seventeenth century. The otsuyé came into special vogue about the years 1630-40 and continued to be popular until about 1730. This popular art of Ukiyoye had first developed on Matahei's initiative in the Shijo school of Kioto, where it continued to be a living art far into the nineteenth century; but it had been transferred to the new capital city of Yedo as well, since the last decades of the seventeenth century, and it was there that it actually attained its greatest perfection.

Japanese wood-engraving owes its rise to truly artistic heights to the influence of Moronobu, whose most important work was done between 1675 and 1695, and whose numerous illustrations, composed after the style of the Tosa school, but freshly and vividly conceived, set an example which exerted an influence as late as the middle of the eighteenth century. Among his numerous followers, who cultivated more and more the artistic single-sheet print, was Masanobu, who lived until the middle of the eighteenth century, and distinguished himself as the first to imbue his designs with a gentle and delicate charm which may be best compared with the spirit of the rococo style then prevailing in Europe, and which continued to be a characteristic feature of Japanese style. Torii Kiyonobu, however, is noted for his foundation of the Torii school, which lasted through the eighteenth century, and the achievements of which in effective drawing and decorative balancing of black and white masses remained unequalled. Occasional sheets by

  1. Tokio Cat., p. 11.