Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/157

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Beginning of Wood-Engraving


difficult problems, and unfold the powers that are in them in all their freshness, taking care only to infuse as much life as possible into their creations and to give them as much finish as is necessary to produce a harmonious artistic impression.

Thus the representations of Moronobu and his school combine a pronouncedly decorative effect, achieved by a symmetrical filling up of the surface and the strong contrast of black and white masses, with extreme animation of motion and expression. All the persons—and there is nearly always plenty of movement in these compositions—stand in relation to one another, react on one another, and thus produce an impression dramatic in the highest degree. Though essentially schematic in their construction, they are nevertheless full of a warm life not unfelt by the artist himself. Although the faces, especially the rounded faces of the women, with their diminutive features, are monotonous enough, and although the courtly etiquette which prevails in these representations demands all possible immobility and impassiveness, nevertheless the play of eyes and eyebrows betrays enough of the emotion that lies beneath. The figures, bounded by a firm, rounded, and in places slightly thickened contour, move in graceful attitudes and beautifully flowing lines. Scenes from history and legend, and also numerous representations from contemporary life, alternate with one another—a faithful mirror of the occupations of high society, its combats and love adventures, its games, pastimes, and pleasures, even its fashions in dress and coiffure. For a reduced specimen, see Anderson, Japanese Wood-Engraving, No. 6. Although the spirit of a new era of lax morality now first intrudes on these pictures, in the shape of easy beauties and celebrities of the stage, yet the artists never drop into vulgarity, but always preserve the forms of the highest propriety and good breeding. It is only in the crowded and lively street scenes, which Moronobu loved to draw on large oblong sheets, that he yields, always within the bounds