Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/27

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1. Character of Japanese Painting—2. Technique—3. The Opening Up of Japan

1. Character of Japanese Painting.—Japanese painting, like its parent art, Chinese painting, differs from modern European painting in this, that it deliberately foregoes all means of producing an immediate illusion. It knows nothing of the third dimension, but confines itself to decorative effects in one plane; at the same time the extraordinarily developed powers of observation in the Japanese enable it to convey an unusual amount of life and spirit.[1]

With the Japanese space is not indicated by receding degrees of depth, and if represented at all, at least in the best period of their art, is not subject to the laws of a strict perspective, being merely indicated by a series of scenes, as on the stage. Men and objects in space are not rounded, and cast no shadows; shadows so cast being, according to the Chinese doctrine, something accidental and not worthy of representation at all. Objects do not throw back the sunlight in the form of high lights, nor do they reflect other objects in their neighbourhood; this is most conspicuous in the case of water, which shows neither reflections nor high lights. Hence anything in the nature of chiaroscuro, a homogeneous scheme of light altering

  1. See Madsen, p. 12 ff.; Brinckmann, i. 174-81.