And then, as the Japanese smiled unperceived at me, and rolled a cigarette, the superb Wilton turned himself a little on the sofa, rearranged a cushion beneath his elbow, and began a long half-intoned speech about newspapers, the folly of reading them, the inconceivable idiocy of those who write for them, and so forth, while I agreed with him at every point, and the Japanese, who knew it by means of livelihood chuckled quietly to himself…
Wilton must have enjoyed that afternoon. He thought he had a proselyte in me, and he talked like a prophet, till I wondered how it could be possible for any one man’s brain to invent such flood of nonsense. I was happy under it all if only on account of the quiet quizzical smile of the Japanese, who was making a sketch of the orator’s face…
The Japanese excused himself from accompanying us, and went down to the river to make studies for some painting upon which he was engaged…
Arthur Ransome – Bohemia in London (1907)
Ransome’s Japanese artist with the quizzical smile was Yoshio Markino and he did like to walk by the river, starting in Chelsea but sometimes walking through the whole night.
Below, the water runs swiftly past the piers of Albert Bridge.
A monochrome view of the same bridge.
This water level view was one he was particularly liked. Here is another version a good walking distance away:
Punting on the Thames. This picture combines Markino’s love of water, mist and dusk with the other thing he loved most about London, English women. One of the books Markino wrote was the eccentrically (and ungrammatically) titled “My idealed John Bullesses” (1912). In the introduction he apologises for his “home-made English” and admits to having been fascinated by European women since the age of six when his father brought home a chromo-lithograph picture of a young woman. “It seemed to me that this girl was always beckoning me; whenever I looked at it from distance and I always went under the picture and bowed down to pay my homage to her.”
“The quiet and deep blue stream of Thames is very beautiful, and it looks more beautiful when it runs round the green ground with many graceful trees. But these beautiful views could not be so beautiful if the John Bullesses did not visit there. Their dresses in white, pink, and all sorts of light colours break the monotonous greens on the shore as well as in boats, and give some delightful contrast. And when the dusk comes they look still prettier. Have you ever seen the religious picture of Buddhism ? Buddhas and all saints are always sitting on lotus flowers or on its leaves. The idea was to give some nice and cool feeling in such a hot country like India. If I have to paint a picture to give a nice and cool feeling I should paint a John Bulless punting a boat on the Upper Thames. John Bullesses in boats or John Bullesses on the green are the most important element to complete the beauty of the Upper Thames.”
It’s a strange book for the modern reader, half archaic and half modern. Markino was a great supporter of the Suffragette movement – there are chapters on the WSPU and the Suffragette procession of June 1911. Others deal with his fascination with fashion, shopping and social life.
Markino observed the women of London wherever he went, at night at the theatre:
And during the day, in small groups:
And in larger gatherings.
These two are set in Hyde Park. This one is of what he calls the Church Parade on a June Sunday:
This is the morning parade on Rotten Row:
As good as his daytime pictures are, Markino always returned to the gloom.
“I often recollect some Japanese insect called ” Mino Mushi,” or ” Overcoat Insect.” This small insect gathers feathers, dead leaves, bark, and everything, and ties them up together with her silky webs, and wears this heavy overcoat. But when she takes off that overcoat, lo, she is a beautiful butterfly. Some John Bullesses bury themselves into such thick fur overcoats in winter. You can hardly see their eyes ; all other parts are covered with foxes’ tails, minks’ heads, seal’s back skin, a whole bird, snake’s skin, etc. etc. They make their size twice or three times larger. But when they get into a house and take off all those heavy wearings, such a light and charming butterfly comes out.”
“…my work is not yet completed. But we say in Japan “That which you like most that you can do best.” Having trust in this proverb I have decided to spend the rest of my life here to study dear London all my life.”
Markino reluctantly embarked on a repatriation boat in 1942. He was never able to return.
Tombstone designed by Markino.
Electric power works Chelsea
A winter afternoon Chelsea Embankment
The running tide Albert Bridge
Early evening Chelsea (Albert) Bridge
Punting on the Thames
A party of tourists before St Paul’s Cathedral
Leaving His Majesty’s Theatre the Strand
Fog – Ladies crossing Piccadilly
A June Sunday – Church parade in Hyde Park
Morning parade in Rotten Row
Christmas shopping Regents Street
Outside St George’s Hospital
Quotations from the Colour of London and My idealed John Bullesses.
It was a close run thing tonight so apologies for any typos or spelling errors. I spent the afternoon following an architect round the all the little rooms of the library sub-basement which will soon become a smaller number of larger rooms.