This detail shown
above reminds me of the 1934 Laurel and Hardy film "Babes in Toyland" with
its "March of the Wooden Soldiers" or even to some degree of Tchaikovsky's
"Nutcracker Suite". Elaborate, staged and artificial.
While war is not a
theatrical production it may sometimes seem that way if you aren't fighting
in or threatened by its immediacy. (This, of course, is how it seemed prior
to our exposure to near and real time events.) For the Japanese artists it
was an opportunity to rev up the national sense of pride via a well
organized propaganda machine.
Unlike the print on
this page many of the more violent encounters of the Sino-Japanese War were
never actually viewed by the artists who illustrated them. The bam,
flash, kaboom and oomph of the battle front were not always part of the
artist's assignment. Reports from the war would be telegraphed back to Tokyo
with detailed accounts and the artists would reenact the scene from his
studio. "Only a handful of printmakers went to the front to sketch... Most
were less adventurous, content to be armchair artists following the news of
the battle as it reached Tokyo, working from photographs if they were
diligent but relying on imagination if information proved inadequate, as it
*The World of
the Meiji Print: Impressions of a New Civilization, by Julia
Meech-Pekarik, Weatherhill, New York and Tokyo, 1986, p. 201.