Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/222

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JAPANESE COLOUR-PRINTS

the yellow very soft, to achieve a still richer effect. If we include both black and white, which he could dispose in small scattered parts very effectively, to accentuate the effect of the main colours, it is already possible to distinguish nine clearly separate tones, and—this is characteristic of Harunobu—every colour already appears in perfect purity, as do also the tones produced by over-printing. Moreover, they all stand in perfect balance with one another. From this it was only a short step and a mere question of technique to arrive at a colour-print with any desired number of blocks and colours.

This end Harunobu achieved in a series of particularly beautiful compositions, rich in colour and finely cut, of square surimono size, some of which, as, for example, the woman on a white elephant, and another walking over a snow-covered bridge, he dates 1765, to show, by stating the year in which they were made, his justifiable pride in the final success of his invention. He here used five or six wood blocks, and by employing principally light but vivid colours in combination with very delicately blended grey and brown tones, as well as by excellent blind impression, e.g. for snow, he produced a chromatic effect the purity and delicacy of which has hardly been excelled by any subsequent work. Thus we have here one more instance of what has so often been observed, as, for example, at the invention of printing, of the European chiaroscuro-print, and of oil-painting (Van Eyck), that the first products of the new art were also the most perfect, and that subsequent generations have seldom been able to follow them up with adequate success. The further development of colour-prints now no longer depended upon technique, but must be sought exclusively in the idiosyncrasy of each artist, in the way in which he was able to give expression to his peculiar point of view and to his peculiar sense of colour. Here also the chief aim was to secure the distinctest possible effect with the simplest