Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/57

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GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

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be precise, and a year of the Rat, in terms of the short notation. The latter was the twentieth of the same cycle and a year of the Goat. "The year 1804, a time of general festivity and the development of Japanese social life in all its brilliance, witnessed the production of many surimonos, among them the most characteristic and elaborate of Hokusai. In 1823 competitions took place for the finest designs in New Year cards; art clubs and other societies, among them more especially the ‘Society of Flower Hats,’ vied with one another in the invention of original and elegant surimonos, and gave commissions to the artists."

3. The Opening Up of Japan.—Since the coup d'état of 1868 Japan is open to Europeans. Indeed, so great was the zeal of the Japanese to turn the achievements of European civilisation to their own profit, that at first they took over in indiscriminate haste good and bad alike, science and industries as well as the ugly and the "cheap and nasty," and were misled into despising their own best possessions—their national costume and their national art. It is true that they began remarkably soon to realise their folly in this respect; still, the interval was long enough to enable European and American dealers and collectors to get into their hands a considerable proportion of the national art-products, and among them particularly colour-prints. Our knowledge of this branch of art is based upon collections so formed. Since the Museum of Japanese Art was founded in Tokio, the ancient Yedo, in the seventies of last century, and retrospective exhibitions held there have once more opened the eyes of the Japanese to the merits of their indigenous art, prices have risen so enormously that scarcely anything of special value is likely henceforward to leave Japan.

From the time that a Portuguese mariner in 1542 first touched its shore, Dai Nippon, the "Empire of the Rising Sun," with its 3800 islands, which Columbus had set out to

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