Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/312

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JAPANESE COLOUR-PRINTS

Blossom and the Silver World bear a date, in both cases 1790. The Silver World is one of his finest works. About this time also he published two series of six sheets each: six children disguised as poets, and the six signboards of the most celebrated saké (rice wine) houses, represented by women, one of his most beautiful creations.

When Kiyonaga, at the beginning of the tenth decade, withdrew from the field, there sprang up between his successors, Shuncho, Yeishi, Utamaro, and Toyokuni, a rivalry for the precedence. Fenollosa names the year 1792 as the acutest period of this strife, from which Utamaro emerged victorious, and thereafter, through more than a decade, bore uncontested sway. While Shuncho and Yeishi, though gifted with strong personalities, were only able to continue the style of the master, and that in a weakened form, and Toyokuni, the youngest of them, with all his talent for colour and elegance, did not possess enough creative power to lead art to higher levels, Utamaro was able to add a new element to what had already been achieved, by further development in the direction of a keenly observant naturalism; landscape especially, which thus far, despite all progress since the primitives, had nevertheless stopped short at more or less carefully executed suggestions, was first fully co-ordinated by him, and thereby attained an independent significance within the design as a whole. In this he showed himself the natural successor of Toyoharu, the pupil of Shigemasa. At the same time he began to be noted as the painter of woman, whom he studied devotedly in every condition, as mother, as maiden, as courtesan, so that his achievements in this province are his most lasting title to fame.

He created an absolutely new type of female beauty. At first he was content to draw the head in normal proportions and quite definitely round in shape; only the neck on which this head was poised was already notably slender. This is the style