Ten Japanese Paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Ten Japanese Paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Ten Japanese Paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Ten Japanese Paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Excerpt

It is remarkable that so observant a recorder as Kaempfer in his History of Japan, while mentioning that the Japanese "rather exceed all other nations in ingenuity and neatness of workmanship" and while noting especially their metal work, tempering of iron, textiles, paper making, and lacquer, should almost entirely refrain from commenting on their painting. Yet his characterization selects pertinent traits. Ingenuity implies a mental process,--the Oriental artist's concern with an image which is to be thought out as the expression of an idea in visual terms. Neatness of workmanship is the crown of the apprentice system of Japanese art training. It is more than this. Perfection of touch represents in the field of art that sense of orderliness which in the realm of social relationships is expressed by the well defined responsibilities of the aristocratic and feudal systems which have swayed the destiny of the Empire.

Were this idea to be pursued even more deeply, it would appear that the abhorrence of the Shint religion for all kinds of impurity is but another example from early times onward of the attitude of the Japanese conscience. As Lafcadio Hearn points out, physical impurity was regarded as identical with moral impurity. The appreciation of technique and the conscientiousness that an artist feels towards his craft are so persistently affirmed either in the general treatment or in the profusion of ornamental detail or in the supplementary use of magnificent mountings that they must be related to the nature of the Japanese people themselves.

The question of the origin of the Japanese people is of less importance . . .

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