Old-World Japan: Legends of the Land of the Gods

by Frank Rinder

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Frank Rinder (1863-1937) was the art correspondent of the Glasgow Herald and adviser to the National Gallery in Melbourne, Australia. He had the luck of a substantial bequest to the gallery, which enabled him to be aggressive as its agent. His other books included a history of the Royal Scottish Academy and a study of the etchings of D.Y. Cameron. He selected Thomas Heath Robins (1869-1953) to do the illustrations for his Japan book. Dr Hilary Taylor writes:

“…this book is a gem. Clearly, it reveals contemporary enthusiasm for things Japanese – a taste which had Old-World Japan: Legends of the Land of the Godsburgeoned since the 1860s and the reopening of Japan to the West – and also Robinson’s remarkable talent and agility as an illustrator. … It is also interesting to compare Robinson’s illustrations with those produced, in the same year, by the young Aubrey Beardsley for Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. Beardsley, of course, had learned much from Japanese prints…In contrast, Thomas Heath Robinson’s illustrations for Rinder’s book on Japan do not have the same static figures, tense with eroticism, that we find in Beardsley, but they do reveal a vivid exploration of the power of black and white in illustrations that are at once full of sinuous, Art Nouveau movement and rich with exoticism. Robinson and Beardsley must have been well aware of one another’s work.”

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