Yoshio Markino (1869-1956) was a talented Japanese artist and eccentric writer who fell in love with London. He lived in London for most of the time between his first arrival in 1897 and his enforced return to Japan in 1942 following the outbreak of war between Japan and Britain. Markino's best paintings, drawings and writings were done in the Edwardian era and the years up to the beginning of the First World War in 1914. The 1920s and 1930s when AngloJapanese relations changed from friendship to hostility saw a decline in his popularity and output.
William S. Rodner - Edwardian London through Japanese Eyes - 2012
My sketches and articles, accompanied with a note of Mr. Spielmann's, were published in the August 1903 number of the Magazine of Art. Mr. Douglas Sladen was the very first person who wrote to Mr. Spielmann a letter which I had privilege to look at with a delight. It ran like this: This month's number of your magazine is most interesting, especially about that Japanese artist. Will you send him to me! I think I can put him in the way of some work. From this time I used to illustrate the novels by Mr. Sladen.
Yoshio Markino - A Japanese Artist in London - 1910
Douglas Sladen (1856-1947) was a celebrated and prolific writer of travel books, novels and anthologies. Over time he took charge of Markino's career, in the capacity of both friend and agent.
One of the most important women in the artist's professional life was Olave Muriel Potter, a writer and one of Douglas Sladen's former secretaries, who composed the text of the two books on Italy illustrated by Markino, The Colour of Rome and A Little Pilgrimage. (..) Sladen called her Markino's Egeria and remembered how the artist would rely on her to translate ideas into prose, and to find just the correct English word. Rodner
Piazza di Termini and S. Maria degli Angeli (this and the other links under the illustrations lead to pages of this website providing more accurate information about the sites and monuments depicted by Markino and described by Potter)
Mr. Markino's pictures are full of the Colour of Rome. The colours in which he excels are the colours of Roman masonry and the colours of Roman mists and sunshine. The whole gamut of colour is represented in the former, for there are bricks and stones and cements of every age, stained by damp, faded by sun; and these are Mr. Markino's favourite materials for pictures.
Douglas Sladen - Introduction to "The Colour of Rome" by Olave Muriel Potter with watercolours by Yoshio Markino - 1909
Outside, the air is crisp and sparkling; in the sunny Piazza delle Terme fountains are splashing; the yawning mouths of the baths of Diocletian hold stables and forges and wood-yards; the tawny fašade of S. Maria degli Angeli is built into the old brickwork of the Empire; and the hemicycle of tall modern buildings divided by the Via Nazionale preserves the form of the esedra of Diocletian. This is Rome - a capital of contrasts, ancient and modern; a city of dreams and a city of crisp delights. Potter
Books like Colour of Rome aimed for little beyond visual display so it was no accident that the artist Markino took centre stage. Its full-page color plates made it especially easy to differentiate art from text. A. & C. Black, a pioneering firm in the publication of "colour books," established the practice of selecting first an artist and then bringing in an author for such projects. This publisher indeed came to believe that "the text is not closely associated with the illustrations. The text we like is of a bright readable description.. There are so many illustrations that the reader would find it difficult to hold the thread of a serious argument." (..) The firm went on to advertise "Black's Beautiful Books," ranging in price from 6 to 20 shillings, as "chiefly distinguished by its exquisite illustrations in colour" (e.g. Rome by Alberto Pisa). (..) A criticism of Markino came in a review of his Colour of Rome by Richard Davey in The Saturday Review. Davey found it remarkable that the "Japanese have 'progressed'" to the degree that a "Japanese artist, dressed like a European would sketch effects of Roman colour.." For Davey, however, the result was disappointing because the illustrations were "unfortunately drawn more or less in modern European style, which is distinctly to their detriment." Rodner
Christmas Market below the Quirinal near SS. Vincenzo e Anastasio
There are many markets in Rome - little morning
affairs tucked away in the corner of some unimportant
piazza, like the fruit and vegetable market in the shadow
of the great white bastion of the Quirinal, which Mr.
Markino has painted in its Christmas splendour. Early
in the morning the sun pours a flood of light down the
narrow paved street which leads up the hill; it gilds
everything it touches, and seems to concentrate upon
the fountains of golden macaroni and spaghetti flowing out of bowls and platters upon the counter of
a fabrica di paste. The stall-keepers arrange their pyramids of oranges and ruddy apples and the little
white figs of Italy in steps below the Palace of the
King; and at Christmas-time orange-trees, decorated
with tinsel and gleaming with fruit, are transported to the piazza to tempt the eye. Potter
Those Baroque churches everywhere in Rome were my nightmare. They are as ugly as could be, just like the heads of stag-beetles. (..) My seven months' life in Rome was the busiest time in my life. I could not spare the time to see any galleries. One of my most illustrious friends in London wrote to me: "What! have you not seen any gallery, being in the heart of all arts in the whole world (excepting, of course, Japan )?"
Yoshio Markino - An Essay by the Artist in "The Colour of Rome"
The artist himself explains why the book does not cover some of the most celebrated Roman Baroque piazzas (Navona, di Spagna, del Popolo etc) and fountains (Acqua Paola, di Trevi, etc.) and why there are no views of the Vatican and Capitoline Museums and of their works of art. His watercolours focus on the monuments of Ancient Rome and on some picturesque corners of the City, e.g. the Christmas Market (other corners are shown in page two).
The glowing reds of the Baths of Caracalla, the lucid greys of the Temple of Mars, the rich ochre (which is the colour of Rome) of the houses round the Pantheon, show what a master of colour Mr. Markino is, while the daring originality of his treatment of the Pantheon, the Colosseum, S. Giorgio in Velabro, the Palatine, and the King's Palace, prove him to be the most interesting illustrator that Rome has yet found. In Rome he had a subject after his own heart. Sladen - Introduction to The Colour of Rome
"Perhaps I like the Forum best. But why did all my English friends in London tell me of Rome taking off
their breath or grasping their hands? I feel nothing of
that sort. (..) I say, please come to Rome at once, or else I
cannot make a single sketch." To my greatest delight, the authoress and her friends came to Rome after five weeks. I felt myself as if a blind man had got a stick to walk with. The very next day we went to the Roman Forum and the Palatine. They have explained me everything. The morning sun seemed to me ever so much brighter. I watched the face of the authoress. She was in most serious mood. I was just like her dog, never understanding what its mistress meant by all that, but quite willing to walk wherever she walked and to stop wherever she stopped. I wagged the tail and jumped with joy, not with that joy its mistress had in her heart and head, but the joy with the colour which I could see with my own eyes. Markino
Rome smiles upon the traveller whichever way he enters through her gates, but on her head she wears a chaplet woven of cypresses, stone-pines, and dusky ilexes; and in her heart - the Forum - she hides the tomb of her glory and her Republic. It lies like a scar below the cliff of ruined palaces from which the Caesars sold their Empire. (..) So it came about that the Forum returned to its ancient use again, and became a field for cattle and an open space where shepherds tended their flocks. To-day this wilderness of marble has blossomed like a rose. Emerald moss has spread a carpet everywhere, and fresh young plants, violets and blue irises, cluster round broken columns; myrtle, pomegranate, and oleander are twined by roses into a classic garland for the homeless gods, and the laurels of Daphne weave an immortal wreath above the funeral pyre of Caesar. Potter
The afternoon sun gilds the three columns of Castor and Pollux, which soar into the blue dome of the sky from their lofty podium. Perhaps a lark, thrilling its heart out overhead, may set you dreaming as a lark's song ever will. (..) Below the three tall columns, which are all that
remain of the Temple of the Twin Brethren, is the
sacred pool of Juturna and her shrine. (..) The stupendous walls of the Library and Temple
of Augustus screen off the rays of the afternoon sun,
already sinking in the west, as though they were out works of the Palatine, as, indeed, they were when Caligula threw his bridge across their roofs to the Temple of Jove on the Capitoline. When you walk in the Forum Romanum, and tread the old stones of the Via Sacra, you find yourself drifting insensibly away from the
It is strange that, of all things, the bridges over a fierce river should be the most perfect and authentic relics of the Republic. The Ponte Fabricio is narrow, and its stones are worn into a groove by the feet of two thousand years. On its parapet are the two hermae of the four-headed Janus, which give the bridge its name of Ponte dei Quattro Capi, and who smile sardonically from the four points of the compass upon a Rome so changed and new. Romans strolled over this bridge in the days when three temples overlooked the Tiber instead of the Church and Convent of S. Bartolommeo, and a cluster of uneven brown houses; mercenaries sauntered insolently across it in the Middle Ages from the stronghold of the Caetani on the island. The old tower of the Caetani still frowns down upon the bridge as though it possessed the power of guarding the Island of Healing as it did in the thirteenth century, albeit it was not a place of healing then. Potter
As the weather was getting warmer I used to have promenade at night, and those enormous dark ruins silhouetted against the pure sky, and peeping above the modern buildings, seemed to tell me something of their own histories. I stopped on the spot and tried to listen to them. I had nothing in my head to respond to their signals. I dare not go deeply into my imagination, as my imagination was sure to be wrong. I said to them: "Nay, do not ask anything to me, but leave all your questions to your faithful European visitors I myself only love your colour. That is all!" Markino
As you pursue your way along the Sacra Via, you pass the silver Arch of Titus, the eastern gate of the Forum, on the crest of the Velia. But the grace which makes it one of the most beautiful monuments in the whole valley is lost at close quarters, and only its reliefs claim your attention. For it was decreed to the short lived Titus when he brought his Judaean war to a victorious close; and its reliefs illustrating his triumphal entry into Rome have preserved for us the features of the Ark of the Covenant and the seven-branched candlestick, and the other lost hiera of the Jews, which he took from the ruined Temple of Jerusalem. (..) Night steals graciously into the Forum. The shadows deepen; the sky turns from a pallid half-tone to the brilliant blue of Roman twilights; the Arch of Titus and the Columns of Castor glow with unearthly radiance; bats flap hurriedly from temple to temple. Potter
The world has seen little of the Palace of Augustus or of his temple to Apollo. His palace, at least, is still buried beneath the Villa Mills, which till recently was occupied by the Nuns of the Visitation. But at last steps are being taken to explore the hidden palace of the first Emperor of Rome, and the empty Villa Mills stands like a ghost of itself among the stone-pines and roses and fragrant oleanders of its beautiful tangled garden. Beyond the Villa Mills, whose garden encroaches upon the halls of the Flavian Emperors, is the Stadium of Domitian. Potter
In the hollow between the Aventine and the Caelian are the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, standing on the right side of the Appian Way. Here, under a sky bluer than the sky of Egypt, the cliffs and broken rocks of the mighty building, against which the tides of Time have flung themselves for so many generations, tower into the sunlit air. Birds sing in the Baths of Caracalla, and play joyously among the old brown stones, plumed with grass and weeds. Through the broken arches the sun pours compact rays of light on the mosaic pavement, which has sunk to the unevenness of waves of the sea, as though the riches of the Empire had bowed through the vast halls and left a treasure of porphyry and serpentine, and cipollino gleaming like pearl against the golden marble which we call giallo antico. Where the mosaics of man have worn away, Nature has wrought a wonderful emerald carpet, softer than the velvet rugs of the East, upon Rome's dark-red earth. The jagged cliffs which once enclosed the esedra of the Calidarium frown down upon the grass-grown Stadium, with its flowering shrubs, where once the youths of Rome ran races and played games before the great business of their baths. Round the deserted halls the mute testimony of marble fragments suggests the grandeur of the thermae, where beauty, and fashion, and the nobility of the Empire spent their days in the pomp and luxury of that decadence which was slowly rotting out the heart of military Rome. Stripped of their mosaics, the walls of Caracalla's Baths, which neither he nor the two nephews who succeeded him could have seen completed, glow with the whole gamut of colour, from gold to brown and purple to red. This great monument of the second African Emperor - the maniac son of Septimius Severus - is a solemn and majestic place, and in its broken walls the distant murmur of Rome is stilled. Potter
European, Rome is the revelation of their ancestors. To
us Japanese, Rome is only a strange town. Of course, I
studied the Roman history when I was a schoolboy, but
that was only for the purpose to pass the examination;
and the next day after the examination I had quite forgotten it. Last year, just before I left London for Rome,
I have read the History of Rome by Merivale. But
such a study in a few evenings was something like the
grill-room cooking: it was quite cool when I reached
to Rome. I regret to say I could not have that deep
yet sweet feeling (?) like Europeans. Markino
The Flavian Amphitheatre, which rose from the site of the fish-pond of Nero's Golden House, is one of the marvels of the world. In the eighth century the Venerable Bede, who never visited Rome, wrote his famous epigram upon the vastest of Rome's ruins: "Quamdiu stabit Coliseus stabit et Roma: quando cadet Coliseus cadet et Roma.
Tomba degli Scipioni: A few hundred yards inside the old gate of the Aurelian Wall, a tall cypress, rising above an archway like the smoke of a funeral pyre on a windless day, marks the tombs of the Scipios. Two columns support the arch, which is adorned on the interior with a beautiful fragment of marble frieze, and a little slope leads up to the open mouth of the tomb, where pepper-trees stand like guardians on either hand. Potter
Those famous Roman pavements, just like the back skin of crocodiles, are so suitable for pictures. Only my poor boots were worn out so quick. (..) And what I have called on the first day the "hideous modern electric tram running in the ancient street", was only turned into my gratefulness when I began to be so busy to go round for sketching. Markino
Pantheon: the undiminished glory of Imperial Rome. It is like a giant caught in the meshes of the narrow roads which flow into its inadequate piazza. It has an almost Egyptian impressiveness and impassivity. You turn a corner and come upon it suddenly, looming above the tall houses which crowd upon it. The clanging bells of the red and white electric trams of Rome, the cries of hawkers, and the incessant demands of the sellers of mosaics and picture post-cards, make the piazza one of the noisiest spots in the city, as it is one of the most lively; for the small shops in the bassi of the narrow ochre houses are gay with fruit and vegetables, or with posters advertising wine and liqueurs. Though it has been robbed by vandals, buffeted by storms, and flooded times without number, it preserves its majesty unimpaired; and the years have given it an added beauty of soft outline and rare colour. Potter
The Porta San Paolo has the round Aurelian towers. (..) On its left stands the pyramid which Caius Cestius desired his heir to build for him after his death. It is smaller than the least of the pyramids of Gizeh; it lacks the dignity of Egyptian monuments; it is encased in the Aurelian Wall, and it is so blackened and stained by time that its once shining marble is as dull as lead. Yet there is a pathetic grandeur about the tomb of this Roman, whom we know from his inscription to have lived a praetor, tribune and priest, and to have died during the lifetime of Agrippa, the friend of Augustus. The brown masonry of the Aurelian wall wings its way from the Porta San Paolo to the Tiber on thirty five towers, which enclose the pyramid of Caius Cestius, so that one side still faces the road to Ostia and the other backs upon the grass-grown sanctuary of the Protestant cemetery. Potter
The Ponte Sant'Angelo, the Pons Aelius which Hadrian built to give free access to his mausoleum, is the most romantic of all Roman bridges, for its stones are worn by the feet of the pilgrims of fifteen centuries passing to the shrine of St Peter. Its five arches make complete circles with their reflections in the muddy waters of the Tiber; and on the parapet are Bernini's fluttering angels. Under their guardianship pilgrims and penitents alike have passed to St Peter's, treading the same path as Kings and Emperors, who went with the pomp of great estate to receive their crowns at the hands of the Bishop of the World; they watch over all those who pass under their shadows to and from the Leonine City. (..) Across the bridge the round machicolated castle of Sant' Angelo looms up with stained brown walls; its bronze angel outlined against the Roman sky, sheathes his sword eternally in memory of the vision of St Gregory the Great, who, as he reached the bridge at the head of a penitential procession to pray before St Peter for plague-stricken Rome, saw an angel putting up his dripping sword over the tomb of Hadrian. Potter
It is almost impossible for a stranger to find out the subjects to paint. (..) I must say the Roman streets are a maze. I am rather disappointed with Rome. All the historical
ruins are buried among ordinary buildings in such uncomfortable narrow streets, and most hideous electric trams
are running through those streets. Markino
It is a shabby place, the Forum of Augustus, in spite of the giant columns of the victorious Mars: cats prowl in its cellars; at night the air is full of bats; the dim lamp in the archway only serves to throw light on the weary passers-by and the torn posters on its walls. But it is not as noisy and desolate as the remnant of the Forum of Nerva, lurking in the shade of a narrow street which echoes with the clamorous voices of electric trams. (..) You can never go far in Rome without seeing posters but they are not so ubiquitous as the gigantic letterings of municipal elections, or the notices of race-meetings. You get some incongruous effects with the municipal placards. Mr. Markino, in his picture of the Forum of Augustus, shows them pasted over the walls of the majestic temple of Mars Ultor.
When you pass under the archway of Augustus's Forum, and stand outside its mighty walls, you leave Imperial Rome for the medieval city. The insistent bell of the convent in the Forum of the first Emperor warns you of the fact even before you find yourself under the shadow of the Torre delle Milizie, from which anachronistic chronicles say that Nero watched the burning of Rome. Potter
The Via Appia is a world of tombs filled with immortal beauty; for flowers grow among the fallen marbles, violets, and anemones, and star-like crocuses, and hosts of other homely blossoms; golden lichen is spread over the grey stones by the wayside, and in the tangled weeds your eye may meet the gloomy stare of a medusa, or the laughing glance of amorini struggling with their weighty garlands in the midst of waving grasses. The purple and brown plains of the Campagna stretch to right and left, broken only by the stumbling arches of the aqueducts, and by old grey homesteads lichened with gold. Solitary stone-pines silhouetted against the sky raise their branches to heaven in mute protest against the tragic desolation of the Ancient Way of Rome. It is as beautiful as a dream. Potter
I shut my eyes, and lo! my mental visions of the
Roman city appeared in front of me. Those ghost-like
columns of the Forum of Trajan in the night, or those
monstrous ruins of Therme Caracalla in the moonlight,
or those innumerous broken tombs standing in rows on
the Via Appia at the sunset time! Markino
The shadows will be long in the violet-scented halls of the villa of the murdered Quintilii before you turn back to Rome. Potter
Move to page two: Picturesque Rome