Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/218

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JAPANESE COLOUR-PRINTS

Suzuki Harunobu, the founder of the Japanese wood print in the style familiar to us, and thus the first of the moderns, was a pupil of that Shigenaga who invented the two-colour print and probably also the three-colour print, and who, after Masanobu's death, upheld his heritage through a decade. In this case, the inheritance of the artistic tradition, and its gradual transformation in the direction of an entirely new ideal, is clearly in evidence. For as the grace and peculiar charm of Masanobu here continue to live on in their specifically Japanese fashion, to be transmitted as an inalienable heritage from the time of the "primitives" to the whole following half-century of the great moderns, so, on the other hand, the special peculiarities of drawing and colour which constitute the characteristic style of the "primitives" come to an end with Harunobu, and give place to an entirely different conception of the outer world, which, in contrast with the decorative method hitherto current, must be described as essentially naturalistic; although the faithful reproduction of the real world is by no means the positive goal of this art movement. The causes of this new phenomenon are not to be sought for in any particular progress made by art, for the older art was able, as Moronobu's creations prove, to reach with its simple means a degree of expressiveness and vivacity which later times in some ways never recovered; nor could the invention of the perfect polychrome print have influenced it decisively, for this was not immediately followed by an increase in power of artistic representation. Rather must it have been due to the spirit of the age, to the changed direction of the outer as well as the inner life of Japan, that minuter detail and greater variety of representation was now required of her art. This, indeed, and this alone, can account for the falling off in strength, fulness, and robustness, which is noticeable henceforward.

But Harunobu forms not only the beginning of a new, but