Friday, 5 June 2015

When London meets Japan

The author Douglas Sladen - writer of the May 1895 Windsor Magazine piece "Odd Scenes in Japanese Streets" - rang bells, though I've never written about him on JSBlog. It eventually dawned on me that I'd mentioned him in A Wren-like Note as a neighbour of Maxwell Gray after she moved to Richmond.

Nor did I ever meet Miss M. G. Tuttiett, who, since she wrote her great Silence of Dean Maitland, has been known to all the world as " Maxwell Gray," until I became her neighbour at Richmond. These lost years have deprived me of a great pleasure, because, apart from my admiration for her novels, I share two of her hobbies—her enthusiasm for her garden and her enthusiasm for Italy.
- Twenty Years of my Life (Douglas Sladen, New York: EP Dutton & Company, 1913, Internet Archive twentyyearsofmyl00sladuoft).
Sladen's Twenty Years of my Life is a relentless name-drop-fest. Maybe he just got stuck in his working mode as editor of Who's Who, but I doubt it. If he wasn't showcasing his multitudinous celebrity friends (My Novelist Friends, Part 1 ... My Novelist Friends, Part 2 ... My Novelist Friends, Part 3 ... Other Author Friends ... Friends Who Never Came to Addison Mansions ... My Traveller Friends ... My Actor Friends) he was showcasing his home, 32 Addison Mansions, of which there are four colour portraits in the book.

The Roof Garden and Pompeian Fountain
at 32 Addison Mansions
(From the Painting by Yoshio Markino)
The Moorish Room at 32 Addison Mansions
(From the Painting by Yoshio Markino)
The Dining Room at 32 Addison Mansions
(From the Painting by Yoshio Markino)
The Japanese Room at 32 Addison Mansions
(From the Painting by Yoshio Markino)

Sladen appears to have been a distinct Japanophile ... and yet there's a tone to it all. Check out the list: "Odd Scenes in Japanese Streets", The Japs at Home (1895), A Japanese Marriage (1895), Queer Things about Japan (1903), More Queer Things about Japan (1904), Japan in Pictures (1904), Playing . . the Game : a Story of Japan (1905, retitled When we were Lovers in Japan for the 1906 edition). SThere's no doubt that he's a meticulous observer of Japanese culture, a sympathetic admirer of Japan, aware of racism and culture shock (his novel Playing . . the Game : a Story of Japan in fact has a central character who overcomes his racist assumptions). But at the end of it, there's a still an edge to it - his over-riding reaction is "Look how deeply weird this place is", and he still falls into stereotypes, as in his ameya description where "the children stand round the stall in silent, stolid Asiatic expectation". And it looks the same when he directs his observation elsewhere: Queer Things about Sicily (1905), Queer Things about Persia (1907), and Queer Things about Egypt (1910).

The paintings of 32 Addison Mansions in Twenty Years of my Life, as well as the monochrome line drawings of Sladen's friends, are by the Japanese artist Yoshio Markino, who's worth checking out in his own right. He has a very distinctive style: a kind of Impressionist take on lighting and the placement of figures in scenes, but with a precision combined with a receding misty visibility, mostly in the Japanese style of the time, but on occasion outright Turneresque. Probably his best-known work was the some 50 paintings illustrating WJ Loftie's 1907 The Colour of London ; the Internet Archive scans are either messed up with colour Moiré patterns or irreparably undersaturated. But there are also nice examples in his own book, the 1910 A Japanese Artist in London; the gallery below is from this.


Fulham Road
Yoshio Markino
Google Books scan
A Japanese Artist in London (1910)
Chelsea Embankment
Yoshio Markino
Google Books scan
A Japanese Artist in London (1910)
Outside St. George's Hospital
Yoshio Markino
Google Books scan
A Japanese Artist in London (1910)
Hyde Park Corner
Yoshio Markino
Google Books scan
A Japanese Artist in London (1910)
Outside South Kensington Museum
Yoshio Markino
Google Books scan
A Japanese Artist in London (1910)
Chelsea Church
Yoshio Markino
Google Books scan
A Japanese Artist in London (1910)
The Thames at Ranelaugh
Yoshio Markino
Google Books scan
A Japanese Artist in London (1910)
Earl's Court Station
Yoshio Markino
Google Books scan
A Japanese Artist in London (1910)
In London Fog - Yoshio Markino
Google Books scan
My Idealed John Bullesses (1912)
His writing style (his own works have a deal of autobiographical material) is also very readable, though sometimes majorly weird, especially his My Idealed John Bullesses, which despite the social observation and commentary (he was a sincere supporter of the women's suffrage movement) still reminds me a lot of Mr Pinsky's magnum opus in Throw Momma from the Train.
He painted misty and mysterious views of Edwardian London. He wrote four books of memoirs and philosophy in his own special style of English ... he was a Suffragette, ardently supporting the cause of Votes of Women. He fell in love, idealistically and platonically, with several English women.
- Yoshio Markino, 1869-1956, Carmen Blacker, Britain & Japan: Biographical Portraits, Vol. I, ed. Ian Nish, Japan Libraries, 1994.
Roller Skating - Yoshio Markino
Google Books scan
My Idealed John Bullesses (1912)
- Ray

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