Lost enchantment

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Utamaro, Beauties in the Snow

Dalrymple points out that the work of Japanese printmakers was widely exhibited in Paris in the second half of the 19th century. But after the First World War, Western and Japanese art, he writes,

went in widely divergent directions. Never again did Western artists—at least, those who wanted to be considered serious—express straightforward, unaffected tenderness towards the world and human life.

Western artists seem to have been overcome by

a disenchantment with the world, real or assumed, so that they would have considered a subject like feeding the ducks inherently sentimentalising, trivial, and unworthy of their attention.

By contrast, the Japanese printmakers

continued unselfconsciously to portray and celebrate the beauty of the world.

Only after 1945 did Japanese artists start to fear

direct portrayals of beauty.

Kawase Hasui, Great Buddha at Kamakura

Hasui Kawase, Great Buddha at Kamakura

Hiroshi Yoshida, Misty Day in Nikko

Hiroshi Yoshida, Misty Day in Nikko

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