A Garden

Sun and Lanterns by Mortimer Menpes. 1901. Watercolor. Source: Japan: A Record in Colour, facing p. 14. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Menpes was not simply impressed by what he saw in Japan. He was emotionally moved and humbled by it, and often reflects on the superiority of Japanese culture. On the pages immediately before and after this picture in the book is the following account of how he felt when visiting a famous Japanese actor. The room in which he was waiting

looked out upon the garden — a miniature garden, no bigger than an ordinary dining-room, yet perfectly balanced, one that held infinite joys: there were the miniature bridges, lakes, and gold-fish, the mountains, the valleys, and the ancient turtles — all correct as to colour and marked by that exquisite taste which only a Japanese landscape-gardener can display. It was a bright sunlit day, and looking from this room with its perfect masterpiece to the little jewel of a garden, you felt that you were living in another world. And it was all so pure and so 15 “right” that I began to feel hopelessly “wrong.” It seemed that I was the only blot in these perfect surroundings. And at last I became so shy that I really didn’t know what to do with myself, and I felt that the only thing left for me was to take off my clothes and dig a hole in the ground, and then be ashamed that I had left my clothes behind me. However, I controlled my emotions.... [14-15]

As in one of the paintings which precedes this, A Garden, wisteria plays in the beauty in front of him, but the row of white lanterns, and the hangings disturbed by a gentle breeze, add greatly to the effect here. — 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. 20 June 2019.

Created 20 June 2019