Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/201

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DEVELOPMENT OF COLOUR-PRINTING

87

same block (as was done, for example, in landscapes in Gwako senran (1740), where the distance is lighter and the foreground darker in tone[1]), was a first step toward colour-printing. But it does not seem to be proved that the application of different colours to the same block, which was often done in the nineteenth century, was known in the early period. As we have not been able to prove the existence of an earlier colour-print than that dated 1743, of which we shall speak immediately, and as the internal evidence of other two-colour prints does not point to an appreciably earlier origin, it follows that Anderson's statements,[2] according to which a certain Izumiya Gonshiro, towards the end of the seventeenth century, was the first to use a coloured block, besides the black, in order to colour certain parts of his drawing with carmine red (beni), must be referred to hand colour; at any rate, prints of this kind have not come to light. The first book illustrated with coloured wood prints is said to have appeared as late as 1748.

The sheet dated 1743, representing a young man in the rain, is by Shigenaga. Whether it is the first colour-print ever produced in Japan, we do not know; nor has the name of the inventor of this new process been handed down to us. But from the circumstance that it is dated at all, forming thus one of the few exceptions among Japanese single-sheet prints, we may doubtless conclude that it was the first sheet produced in this technique, and that the youthful artist gave expression by this signature to his pride in his new invention, precisely as did his pupil Harunobu twenty-two years later, when he succeeded in inventing the full polychrome print. At all events, prints in two colours are not hitherto known to have been produced appreciably earlier. Why the artist chose precisely these two tints, rose and green, for his colour blocks (to be sure a very happy choice), has not yet appeared. The colours which were

  1. Japanese Wood-Engraving, p. 64.
  2. Ibid., p. 22.