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Telling the story of 400 years of British royal contact with Japan

Yoshio Markino (1870-1956)

Buckingham Palace, London, seen across Green Park c.1911

Colour woodcut | 28.3 x 38.0 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 702798

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Makino Yoshio, known as Yoshio Markino, was a Japanese artist and writer born in Koromo (Toyota City). In 1893, he travelled to San Francisco where he trained at the Hopkins Art School, before arriving in London in 1897, instantly falling in love with the city. He spent hours walking the streets, fascinated by the effect of mist and fog on the appearance of buildings, especially under gaslight. This he captured in watercolour. His first and most important critical success was the publication of The Colour of London by W.J. Loftie in 1907, which contained reproductions of 48 of his watercolours, together with his written observations on life in the capital. Here he commented on the city, ‘Age and the fogs have made the buildings so beautiful … The colour and its effect are most wonderful’.

This print shows the ghostly outline of Buckingham Palace at dusk, and demonstrates the way in which Markino’s work combined his western artistic training with his Japanese heritage. The scene is presented with the simplicity of a ukiyo-e print, but the colours are muted and the winding path through Green Park provides a strong sense of perspective. The Japanese printmaker Urushibara Yoshijirō created some of the woodblocks for Markino’s prints, but the woodblock for this print was carved and printed by two separate Japanese craftsmen.

At the height of his success, Markino became something of a celebrity, but the outbreak of the Second World War, increasing tensions between Japan and Britain and a stalling of his creativity all contributed to a downturn in his career. Markino finally returned to Japan in 1942, where he remained until his death.

Text adapted from Japan: Courts and Culture (2020)