Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/79

This page has been validated.

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

25

logical order, together with some fifty paintings by the same artists, which are inserted in this scheme of development; it determines in effect—what no one had hitherto succeeded in doing—the time-limits within which each artist worked, the changes which the style of each underwent, and lastly, based on these special investigations, the main periods in the development of Japanese wood-engraving as a whole from about 1675 to 1850. All this is set down with such convincing lucidity that for the future nothing more than corrections of minor detail need be looked for; the history of Japanese wood-engraving in all its ramifications stands so compactly built up that we might think ourselves fortunate if we had an equally good foundation for even a single period of European art-history—in which connection it must be remembered that Fenollosa deals not with a small group of artists, but with hundreds, even ignoring as he does the multitude of quite insignificant wood-engravers who flourished in the nineteenth century. All this mass is here, as all competent art-history requires, already so sifted and arranged that only the comparatively small band of choice and leading spirits stand out above the rank and file. The confidence with which Fenollosa dates each sheet in his catalogue within the limits of a single year may seem surprising; but we must take into consideration—as he himself remarks and is bound to remark as an experienced investigator—that the date in each case is only approximate, since there is no such thing as absolute certainty in things artistic, however fully a man may be convinced that his opinion is correct. Moreover, these exact dates have not been arrived at, as might at first appear to be the case, simply by comparing the styles of the various sheets; Fenollosa must surely have taken the traditional dates of the various artists into consideration—no small assistance, as it happens, since fortunately most Japanese woodcuts are signed with the artist's name, while the certainly dated