Japanese Lacquer.

Manufacturer and builder 5, 1895

Under the suspices of the Japan Society, a classified loan collection of specimens of Japanese lacquer, illustrating the work of each master and school, was lately opened at the rooms of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society, Hanover Square, London. Subsequently, at a meeting, Ernest Hart read a paper on "Masters, Periods and Styles in the Lacquer Work of Japan." In this he also spoke of the material, the method of working it, and the localities in which it was produced. It had been well said, he remarked, that of all art industries the treatment of lacquer was the most refined, the most perfect, and the least monotonous. He regretted the peculiar difficulties under which students of this industry labored, owing to the absence of any standard collection of certified and reputable examples, either at the South Kensington Museum or at any other museum in the country. He knew no reason why the lacquer tree should not be grown in this country. Its sap, which was used as the material of all lacquer work, was a natural essence, having a vast superiority over any varnishes used here. Unlike even copal, which was an artificial mixture of resin, fatty oils and turpentine, Japanese lacquer was a ready-made product of nature, which, when hardened, was of mirror-like smoothness, unaffected either by acids or hot water, and of great durability, never splitting or cracking.

It was employed in Japan for an infinite variety of uses, even for such objects as acid tansk, ships' keels, and photographic tablets, not to speak of the finer uses for coach panels and objects of domestic use. The unique superiority of Japanese lacquer-work was due not only to the special merit of the material, but also to the care and skill shown by the Japanese in the manipulation of the material. The art lacquer-work of Japan was essentiallly individual, and we ought not to treat it merely as bric-a-brac, or as an indistinguishable whole. there was as wide adistinction between the ordinary lacquer tray or cabinet of commerce and the exquisite lacs by the great Japanese artists as between a street placard and a canvas of Raphael. Each of the great masters of lacquer had created a style of his own, and had founded a school, of which the traditions were kept alive by his successors for centuries. Many important private collections were now to be found in England, duly catalogued and classified, and he hoped that the present example would be followed for the public benefit in the great art museums in the metropolitan and other centers in Great Britain.

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