Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/410

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JAPANESE COLOUR-PRINTS

also to be mentioned (Brinckmann, p. 212 f.). Renzan is the author of a large oblong surimono with a good and spirited representation of a tiger, about 1860.

Since the opening up of Japan to Europeans and the spread of anti-national views, the art of the country has entirely receded, and has preserved only a thin thread of purely technical tradition. It is not from petrifaction, as in China, but owing to the unfavourable conditions, the dissolution of the relationship which binds the artist to his public, that Japanese art has perished. There was no lack of talent that could have advanced art, just as well as in the eighteenth century; tentative steps had been taken toward new formations, towards extending the circle of representation and opening up new modes of conception. The public, however, which alone could have furthered such tendencies, was wanting. It contented itself with bad actor-likenesses and was amused by indifferent illustrations. Therefore it received the art that it deserved.

If we should ask, in conclusion, whether it is conceivable that the Japanese will ever again attain a characteristic and important art on the basis of the ancient traditions, the answer, it would seem, must be in the negative. Ancient culture and modern civilisation are mutually exclusive notions. Japan has chosen the latter path and indeed was probably bound to choose it, if she did not wish to be crushed out of existence in the strife of the nations. That choice, however, compelled her to renounce her past completely, more completely even than Europe, which has been spared such an abrupt transition. A new Japanese art would of necessity have to be founded on an entirely new basis, which could certainly not be that of European art.