Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/34

This page has been validated.

6

JAPANESE COLOUR-PRINTS

striking an individual note in his choice of colours. As the objects to be represented are simple and the deficiency in means of realistic representation is skilfully made good by specially calculated effects of colour and technique, the conventionalism of this art, which works by mere suggestion, is very much less noticeable than in the productions of other peoples that are still on a low level of development.

To what extent all this is the result of conscious intention and design is well shown by the utterances of two Japanese who express the national sentiments on this subject. The first, Shuzan, wrote as follows in the year 1777: [1] "Among the various kinds of painting there is one which is called the naturalistic, in which it is thought proper to represent flowers, grasses, fishes, insects, &c., exactly as they appear in Nature. This is a special style and certainly not one to be despised; but since it only aims at showing the forms of things, without regard for the canons of art, it is after all merely a commonplace and can lay no claim to good taste. In the works of former ages the study of the art of outline and of the laws of taste was held in honour, without any exact imitation of the forms of Nature." The other authority, Motoori, the most eminent scholar and writer of modern Japan, says:[2] "Many kinds of style are now in vogue which profess to be imitations of the Chinese, and the representatives of which make a point of painting every object in exact accordance with Nature. This I conceive to be the so-called 'realistic' art. Now I make no question but that this principle is in itself excellent; but at the same time there is bound to be a certain difference between real objects and their pictorial presentation." He then enters more minutely into the difference between the Chinese and the Japanese points of view, and proceeds to set forth how the Chinese are realistic and ugly, how their landscapes are ill designed, sketchy where minute

  1. See Anderson, Pictorial Arts.
  2. Transactions, xii. 226 ff.