A Rush to the Stall

A Rush to the Stall by Mortimer Menpes. 1901. Watercolor. Source: Japan: A Record in Colour, facing p. 46. This looks like a stall outside a temple, selling mementoes (small fans hang at the top, on either side). In the book, this comes at a juncture when Menpes is worrying about the effect of commercialisation on Japan's artistic sensibility, specifically the churning out of goods for the inartistic English:

To whom but the Englishman would the golden dragons that play so recklessly about on black screens with their scarlet drooping tongues, that are sold in the Japanese curio shops, possibly appeal? Who but English-speaking people would crave for those cherry-blossoms embroidered on white silk grounds, which they so gleefully carry away with them? Who but my inartistic countrymen would insist on their cabinets being smothered with endless and miscellaneous carvings? The Japanese are too artistic to admit these things into their own homes; but why are their dealers so inartistic as (blinded by the desire of filthy pelf) to put forth these embroideries for the English and American market? Such things now and then make me tremble for the future of art in Japan. It may be (though I trust not) the thin end of the wedge; it may be “the little rift within the lute that by and by will make the music mute, and, ever widening, slowly silence all.” What a tragedy it would be that the music of this most perfect art should ever be silenced in that lovely land, the resting-place and home of the highest and only living art! [46-47]

Fortunately, the traditional crafts have survived, and English people have not all been too crass to recognise their refinement. — Jacqueline Banerjee

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Menpes, Dorothy. Japan: A Record in Colour. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1901. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of California Libraries. Web. 23 June 2019.

Created 22 June 2019