The true artistic spirit is wanting in the West. We are too timid to deal in masses for effect, and we have such a craving for realism that we become simply technical imitators like the counterfeiters of banknotes. Our great and all-prevailing idea is to cram as much of what we call realism and detail into a scene as possible; the richer the company, and the more money they have to handle, the more hopeless the work becomes, for the degradation of it is still more forcibly emphasised. Consequently, we always create spotty pictures; in fact, one rarely ever sees a well-balanced scene in a Western theatre, and simply because we do not realise the breadth and simplicity of Nature. There are not the violent contrasts in Nature that our artists are so continually depicting: Nature plays well within her range, and you seldom see her going to extremes. In a sunlit garden the deepest shadow and the brightest light come very near together, so broad and so subtle are her harmonies. We do not realise this, and we sacrifice breadth in the vain endeavour to gain what we propose to call strength — strength is sharp; but breadth is quiet and full of reserve. None understands this simple truth so well as the Japanese. It forms the very basis of oriental philosophy, and through the true perception of it they have attained to those ideas of balance which are so eminent a characteristic of Japanese art. [6]

Related material


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. 14 July 2019.

Created 14 July 2019