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JAPANESE WOOD ENGRAVINGS

all the laws of light and shade, and the inexhaustible puzzledom of their motives, have many and great artistic beauties for all who will take the trouble to study them as they deserve to be studied. When we recollect that they were drawn by poorly paid artisans for the delectation of a public as poor as themselves, the vigour and fertility of conception, and the high and sustained quality of execution that they display, can win nothing but wonder and admiration. Let us compare the Kusa-zoshi with the contemporary chap books of our own country, or the novel illustrations of Hokusai and Toyohiro with the average pictorial cuts in our light literature of the early Victorian period, and we shall understand better the claims that the humble book artists of the Far East have upon the appreciation of their countrymen and of art lovers of all nationalities.

The leading figure amongst the book artists of the first three or four decades of the present century was undoubtedly the man whose name is best known outside Japan, Hokusai.

Hokusai, the son of a Yedo mirror maker named Nakajima Isé, was born in 1760, and seems to have lived in almost complete obscurity until he had passed the mid-point of an ordinary life. All that we know of the first forty years of his existence is that he had been a pupil in the school of Katsugawa Shunshō, and under the name of Shunrō had produced a few colour-print broadsides in the style of his master. In 1798, however, we find him contributing a frontispiece to Yeishi's ambitious volume of portraits of the female poets of Japan (Onna San-jiu-rok'kasen), and in the next few years he produced a valuable series of colour print albums, depicting scenes in and about Yedo. In this period he also drew illustrations for Kusa-zoshi (in one of which he appears as an author, under the pseudonym of Tokitaro) and drew designs for New Year's cards (surimono) in association with his pupil, Hokkei, and others. A little later he began to supply some remarkably vigorous drawings to illustrate the novels of his friend Bakin, and at length, in 1812, he issued the first volume of the Mangwa, a famous collection of miscellaneous sketches for the use of artisans and students of drawing. From this time his influence became paramount in the popular school, and in the period following the death of Toyokuni, he was the dominant influence in the world of artisan art. It is noteworthy that he never contributed to theatrical illustration,