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JAPANESE WOOD ENGRAVINGS

training in the traditional art canons had rendered them unfit to appreciate the grand display of muscular force, that often revealed itself beneath the hide of the athlete, and as they could make nothing of the heavy features and elephantine limbs of their model, the few studies of the wrestling arena that have reached us have little attraction for the art collector. This failure on the part of the artist to render a subject that might have appealed strongly to his European confrerè, is an interesting contradiction of the theory that the magnificent creations of the sculptors of ancient Greece were inspired by the opportunities that these great artists had of studying the nude form. The Japanese artist had at least equal facilities and many worthy subjects, but not one of the men who in certain directions showed so perfect and instructive an appreciation for beauty of line, has ever made a serious effort to do justice to the matchless curves of the human figure.

It is, perhaps, in sketches of women that the popular artist was at his best. Not that he was naturalistic in his treatment. Nothing, indeed, that he did was more conventional, but his conventions were happy ones, and the result charming. Fortunately for his artistic limitations the long outer robe concealing the limbs of his subject delivered him from much faulty drawing; while the calligraphic training acquired from childhood in the writing school gave him a remarkable power of rendering the sweeping folds of drapery; and the play of colour and choice of ornament permitted by the fashion of the robe and sash brought into use all the lessons in design and harmony that he had learned from the works of the old masters of the classical schools. The gorgeously-attired women that form so conspicuous an element in the decoration of the modern fan, as well as the less extravagant and more attractive personages in the colour prints of Katsugawa Shunshō, Yeishi, and Utagawa Toyokuni are pure conventions, that bear scarcely any resemblance to the real Japanese maiden either in features, form, or proportions; but they are often very beautiful as an exercise of drawing, even in the works of Harunobu and Utamaro, in which mannerism is carried altogether beyond the rights of artistic license. Hokusai, too, had his conventions, but he was nearer to the truth than most of his predecessors (Fig. 23). On the other hand, the engravings after Kikuchi Yōsai, a man of Samurai lineage, show a dignity and refinement in feminine portraiture that had never been