Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/231

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THE POLYCHROME PRINT

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year 1765 on, he put forth his full powers and created in the following lustrum an almost countless number of the richest, the most graceful, and the most varied polychrome prints. In the last years of his life he took up painting in addition to his woodcut work. A youthful, amiable disposition distinguishes this renewer of Japanese wood-engraving, and leads him to choose the life of youth, fair women, and lovers as his favourite subjects; actor-prints he produced but seldom, and, as it would seem, only in his earliest years.

If the works of the primitives, with whom background, as such, had no existence, can justly be compared with mosaic (Fenollosa), Harunobu may be said to have created space for his compositions by imparting depth to them through the addition of a background. Instead of leaving the background blank as heretofore he gave it a delicate grey or soft green tint. After he had succeeded in bringing his colours to perfect purity, notably a brilliant blue and a red of oxide of lead which did not turn black as readily as that of his successor Koriusai, he developed, partly by over-printing, partly by the employment of additional blocks, the rest of the tone-series in equal purity, to the number of some fifteen. As the colours which he employed were generally opaque, he endeavoured to obtain his effects less by the manner of their application than by the harmonising of shades and the use of neutral mediating tones. His works of the period round 1767 may be recognised by the fact that the side-wings of the hair are again beginning to project and to form an almost horizontal line below, just over the ear. The year 1768 forms the high-water mark of his activity; thenceforward he signs his prints regularly. Towards 1769 his figures, which until then had been very symmetrical, became longer, the faces, too, changed from a round to an oval shape, and the nose increased in length. Herein he follows a fashion that had become pretty well