Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/366

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168

JAPANESE COLOUR-PRINTS

Yama mata yama, "Mountains and yet again Mountains," views taken from Yedo bay.

From 1805 to 1817 he devoted himself chiefly to the illustration of novels, especially those of his friend Bakin, with whom he had a disagreement later. The year 807 was particularly fertile in this respect; during it appeared the first instalment, comprising ten volumes, of the ninety-volume Shimpen Suikogwaden, or New Illustrated Suiko Den, tales of robbers, the text of which was written at first by Bakin and afterwards (for the last eighty volumes) by Ranzan. Hokusai resumed his activity as an illustrator toward the close of his life, from 1845 onwards.

The chief turning-point in the life of Hokusai occurred in the year 18 12, which saw the production of the first volume of his celebrated Mangwa, the "Fancy Sketches," followed in succeeding years by thirteen others. In these rapid sketches, which comprise the whole circle of daily life, of legend and of history, as well as of nature, executed with the greatest brilliancy, and exhibiting an extraordinary mastery of anatomy, Hokusai created a work which departed widely from all previous efforts of the Japanese, and pursued an aim similar to that of the art of Europe. An infinite abundance of observation is stored up in these sketches, but comparatively little has been done towards co-ordinating it. However much fresh suggestion they might offer to Europeans, the art of Japan, which seeks to progress only through strength and individuality of style, could draw from it but little inspiration. But the tireless ingenuity, the inexhaustible creative power, and the imperturbable good humour of the artist constantly arouses our admiration anew. Madsen, page 117, cites as a characteristic example the dancer in the third volume of the Mangwa, who is presented in thirty different postures without his head once becoming visible.[1] In the first

  1. For a detailed description of the contents of the fourteen volumes, see Brinckmann, p. 244 ff.