On the Laws of Japanese Painting Part 8
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Where Chinese literary artists add poems to their paintings as many as eight seals may be observed thereon. In j.a.panese paintings never more than two seals are used and these follow and authenticate the signature.
The correct distance at which a _kakemono_ is to be viewed is the width of a mat _(tatami)_ from the alcove where the picture is hung. It is bad form to look at it standing. Before critically examining the work a j.a.panese will scrutinize the artist's signature and seal. It is a cardinal rule in j.a.pan that the signature be affixed so as not to interfere with the scheme of the picture or attract the eye. If the picture looks to the right the signature and seal should be placed on the left, and _vice versa;_ if the princ.i.p.al interest is in the upper part of a picture these should be placed lower down, and _vice versa._ As every painting has its division into IN and YO the RAKKWAN is placed in IN.
Some artists partially cover their signatures with their seal impression.
Lady artists add to their signatures the character JO, meaning woman.
Veteran painters will sometimes write before their signatures the character for old man _(okina)._
The artist's seal is often a work of art and his family name (MYOJI) or his artist name (GO) is usually engraved thereon with the Chinese seal characters called TEN SHO. Where two seals are affixed below the signature one may contain a cla.s.sic aphorism, like TAI BI FU GEN (the truly beautiful is indescribable) or CHU YO (keep the middle path). Before seals were used writings were authenticated by scrolls called _kaki_ HAN.
Even now such scrolls are used. The principles on which they are shaped are derived from astrological lore (EKI). Seal engravers deservedly enjoy renown for learning and skill. To carve a seal is the recognized accomplishment of a gentleman, and the most famous living seal engraver in j.a.pan is an amateur. Seals are of jade, rock crystal, precious woods, Formosa bamboo root, gold, silver or ivory. The best hard stone for seals comes from China and is known as the c.o.c.k's comb (KEI KETSU SEKI).
An artist during his career will collect numbers of valuable seals for his own use. These at his death may be given to favorite pupils or kept as house treasures. Bairei left instructions to have many of his seals destroyed.
The seal paste (NIKU) is made of Diana weed _(mogusa)_ dried for three years, or of a plant called _yomogi,_ or with soft, finely chopped rabbit hair boiled in castor oil for one hundred hours with white wax and then colored red, brown, blue or tea color. The seal should be carefully wiped after it is used, otherwise this paste hardens upon it.
j.a.panese paintings are seldom framed, as frames take too much room.
Frames are used chiefly for Chinese writings, hung high in public places or about the dwelling, and are called GAKU, meaning "forehead," in allusion to raising the head to read what the frame contains. It is etiquette that such framed writings be signed with the real name rather than the _nom de plume._
Two kinds of seals are affixed to the frame: One, on the right, at the beginning of the writing, and called YU IN, containing some precept or maxim; and one or two, on the left, after the signature, bearing the artist's name and any other appropriate designation. All writings in Chinese or j.a.panese read from right to left, and frequently are the sole ornament of a pair of screens.
For the guidance of experts who pa.s.s on the genuineness of j.a.panese paintings there is a well-known publication, "GWA KA RAKKWAN IN s.h.i.+N," by Kano Jus.h.i.+n, which contains reproductions in fac simile of the signatures and seals of all the celebrated artists of the remote and recent past.
In concluding this work, which I am conscious is but an imperfect survey of a vast and intricate subject, I would call attention to the fact that in both Europe and America there is a wonderful awakening to the dignity, simplicity and beauty of j.a.panese art. This is largely to be attributed to the careful and scholarly writings and publications of Messrs.
Anderson, Binyon, Morrison and Strange in England, Fenollosa in the United states, DeGoncourt, Gonse and Bing in France, Seidlitz in Germany, and Brinkley and Okakura in j.a.pan; and all students of art must render to them the homage of their sincere admiration.
The object of all art, as Cicero has truly said, is to soften the manners, by training the heart and mind to right thoughts and worthy sentiments.
To such end nothing will more surely contribute than a faithful study of the painting art of j.a.pan, and the further we investigate and appreciate its principles the more we will multiply those hours which the sun-dial registers,-the serene and cheerful moments of existence.
On the Laws of Japanese Painting Part 8
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On the Laws of Japanese Painting Part 8 summary
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