Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/28

This page has been validated.

2

JAPANESE COLOUR-PRINTS

all the colour-values in a certain direction, is out of the question, whether in representations of interiors or the open air. Moreover, the proportions of the figures are usually quite arbitrary, partly because of insufficient attention to this point, partly from deliberate purpose.

The immobility of the features is to be explained by the peculiar Japanese notion of decorum, which insists on a constantly equable seriousness of expression, one result being that the women have their eyebrows shaved off, their lips painted blue-red (with beni), and their faces thickly covered with powder—as is not unknown in Europe. But the bodies also generally appear in a state of repose bordering on rigidity; a slight flexure—to which the loosely flowing robes yield without effort—a scarcely noticeable inclination must suffice to express the character and psychology of the person represented: even in daily life the exchange of emotions leads to no bodily contact; hand-shaking is entirely unknown, kissing is not customary, any more than walking arm-in-arm. Even the dances of the Japanese offer few occasions for livelier movement; in general they are confined to pantomime, suggesting the emotions to be conveyed by the posture of the body, the movement of legs and hands, and especially by the expression of the eye. Hence there are few opportunities for foreshortening and overlapping.

To be sure, since the end of the eighteenth century some artists had begun to break through these rules, and endeavoured to apply the notions of perspective which they learnt from Europe, to give greater depth and unity to the landscape and greater expressiveness to the figures, and indeed certain masters of earlier periods, the book-illustrators Moronobu, Sukenobu, Shigemasa, had produced designs remarkable for movement and animation. But all of them adhered to certain significant characteristics, notably the absence of shadows and modelling, so that the