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  • Yoshio Markino’s Edwardian London: A Review Essay
  • Stanley Weintraub
William S. Rodner. Edwardian London through Japanese Eyes: The Art and Writings of Yoshio Markino, 1897–1915. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012. xv + 219 pp. $127.00 €93.00

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UNTIL THE POSTWAR BAN on coal-burning, London into the later 1950s, despite the depredations of the German Blitz of the early 1940s, retained much of its Victorian and Edwardian character, especially the characteristic choking grey fogs that settled twilight on the city whatever the daytime hour. A fascinating limner of the scene, seeing fog-shrounded London in paint and prose through a Japanese lens, was Yoshio Markino (1869–1956). Arriving in England in 1897, he observed London and its inhabitants in wood-block prints, watercolors and oils until the 1914–1918 war altered tastes and audiences. Makino—he added the r to make his name easier for the English to pronounce—was especially fond of picturing London through a foggy atmosphere, and portraying stylish English women, whom he called, inventively, “John Bullesses.” William Rodner’s jacket for his warm, colorful survey of Markino’s life and work in London exhibits a stylish young London matron, her face averted from the windy rain, trying to close her buffeted umbrella. [End Page 254] Umbrellas were also iconic among Japanese women. It is a supreme example of Markino’s blending of East and West.

While he worked for the Japanese Naval Inspector’s Office in London from 1898 until it closed in 1901, Markino studied art in South Kensington. Offered £30 in severance pay to return to Tokyo, he took the money but elected to remain, publishing his early work in the Studio, then in 1902 in Japanese Children’s Stories with Grant Richards. After that beginning he published his illustrations regularly in magazines, in the Colour of London in 1907, and A Japanese Artist in London in 1910. He also published articles and columns in Ford Madox Hueffer’s (as he was then) English Review and in the London Evening News and Daily News. Illustrated books followed nearly every year—three in 1912. Paper shortages during the Great War closed off many further opportunities. After the war he moved briefly to France, married a Frenchwoman in 1923, went with her from Paris to New York and Boston, then broke up with her in 1927, returning to London.

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Plate 56 Yoshio Markino

As cultural changes diminished opportunities and overseas rivalries arose between Britain and Japan, interest in Markino and his work declined. He lived largely on earlier savings, and on occasional articles and lectures. He exhibited at the fashionable Mitsukoshi Department Store on Tokyo’s Ginza, and serialized Forty Years of My Life in England in Japanese newspapers from 1935 into 1937. Returning to England, he encountered only trouble. In 1939, many of his paintings in storage were lost in a fire. A new world war had begun, and when Japan joined Germany in hostilities in December 1941 he was classified as an enemy alien. Effectively out of work, and shunned, he was repatriated with other nationals in September 1942. In straitened Japan, only in 1949 could he begin painting again, with materials obtained with difficulty [End Page 255] from America. Often now ill, he exhibited briefly, and dictated a book, Seen in Idle Dreams, published in Japan in January 1956. He died that September, at 87.

A selection of his works follows this review. My thanks to Brill and the able assistance of Thomas Begley, Assistant Editor, for permission to reprint plates from Edwardian London through Japanese Eyes. Those who have access to ELT in Project MUSE can enjoy the color. I asked editor Langenfeld for color plates in print. I haven’t heard back from him yet.

Markino’s visual world had really ended during the World War I years, when his dream cityscape, bejeweled by lamplight and fog, attracted publishers and evoked Edwardian London. Its only close equivalent is captured by Alvin Langdon Coburn’s magnificent photographs in black-and-white. Ironically, Coburn, too, was an outsider—an American. Markino’s misty Hyde Park Corner depicts...


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pp. 254-264
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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