Charles Lang Freer to artist Dwight William Tryon
June 17, 1895
This transcription retains the original spelling and punctuation of Freer’s letter.
June 17, 1895
My dear Tryon:
I have long been wanting to write you a letter but when travelling it seems particularly difficult to do what under the best of circumstances I am a very poor hand at.
During my wanderings I have thought very often of yourself and Mrs. Tryon and have wished that we could have enjoyed together many things of interest and
beauty – Some other things including a touch of Indian fever, I would not wish any one to participate in. In wishing for you it has always been as friend
and lover of all fine things – not as artist. For I believe your views as expressed in your last letter are altogether true – i.e. an effort to
produce work from the many interesting scenes met with on an extended foreign trip would unbalance results and would indeed become a sort of ever recurring
enemy to the real artist. I also sympathize with your affection of the character of New England scenery, but I think one grows to greater intimacy, keener
appreciation of the object he most loves after his memory has been toned by other agreeable impressions – shadowy recollections of unknown places, glimpses
of faraway coasts and strange horizons leave a mysterious something which I think in part the basis of what we call the imagination. Of course to complete
the edifice we must add literature, music, all the fine arts, including also all sensations of human existence. If the Buddhistic idea is correct and I am
inclined to think it is, not one earthly existence alone is sufficient but several are required to develop and imaginative mind — Does not this then mean
experience – and does not intelligent travel bring experience??
My present trip has brought me one valuable sensation at least – that of a long and welcome escape from high pressure American business life. Foreign business life however, is nearly as rapid as ours, so the influence I wish for exists not at Paris, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe, Kioto or any other large city I have yet found – Kioto, Japan’s old capital, comes nearest to it, because of its excellent old time art in many forms, beautiful surroundings and absence of large commercial enterprises. India’s inland places and Japan’s remote hamlets and forests “drive dull care away.”
Ama-no Hashidate my present stopping place is charming — Sea, mountains, forests and the quaintest of little gray and brown fishing villages – A spit of
land two miles long and rarely over 100 feet wide covered with glorious old pine trees and many way side shrines divides the bay and gives at all times
smooth water on one side and usually a pleasant surf on the other. This little peninsula gives the place high rank with Japanese artists and by them it was
long ago given its present name Ama-no-Hashidate meaning “bridge of heaven.”
I have taken a beautiful little house (the only one here) for a few days and here is rest – and real Japanese life and opportunity to study its ins and
outs its ups and downs. The two months I have passed in this country have sufficed to shatter some of my old time idols – and in some respects I am much
disappointed but in many others delighted. The old art of Japan was of tremendous influence and this year the best is being shown. The respect paid it by
the masses is one of the finest traits of a people who in many ways are far from what Edwin Arnold describes; – this is putting it mildly!!
The artists working in metal throughout Japan, today, are probably equal to those of any country or age. The best of the new is, if anything, even finer than the old –
Painting however has gone down, down the ladder, and many painters are working in European fashion – You can imagine the result!! It resembles one of their longest lines of telegraph, the poles of which have lightning rods!! Somebody old the government the rods were a good thing and in their rush to become Europeanized or Americanized (they don’t care which if it’s only foreign) they put up lightning conductors to each pole for hundreds of miles. The present artist think the style of Tanya, and Okio and their schools no good – So they go in to do the thing fashionably – the outcome collar but no shirt – and oar but n boat – but they are happy nevertheless, and their lightheartedness, I man that of the masses, makes the sojourn of many a traveler brighter and gayer.
And life with you this year I judge goes its usual placid course – I know no one who gets more pleasure or less woe. Long may you be so blest, reaping that which you so truly deserve.
In Kioto I met an American the other day, unknown to you, and he told how for years your paintings had taught him new truths of nature and made brighter his life. How little one knows the end of his individual efforts!! And Mrs. Tryon is very well, I trust, and will be ready along with yourself for another glimpse of Ferry Ave. next winter. And then I must see all that you have painted during my absence and that Madonna you bought and there will be a little of Japan to go home with me which will interest you both –
How much there is in life after all! I wish I could send some of the feast of color spread before my little cottage – but you can imagine even finer. So accept my most hearty greetings and extend the same to Mrs. Tryon.
Good bye, good luck,
Written on the floor with a match – I live in real Jap fashion, no chairs, bed or table –