Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

A Classical Poem

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Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
A Classical Poem
100 Views of the Moon
Woodblock Print
c. 1886
14.5" x 9.5"
Very fine color and impression, light original album backing, embellished with embossing and black lacquer.


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Akiyama Buemon

About the art

This print illustrates a poem by the Heian period noblewoman, Akazome Emon. After a long night spent waiting for a lover to arrive, she regrets getting her hopes up and missing sleep. Her poem reads: “I wanted to sleep in peace, and yet/ Throughout the night/ Till it began to ink/ I watched the moon.” Her hand poised on the door, the woman still hopes that the lover might arrive. Her hair flows into a pool behind her, while her eyebrows have been shaved off and drawn as small circles known as “moth-eyebrows.” Yoshitoshi evokes her frustration from a lost night of sleep, but also that last glimmer of futile hope, as she remains in the doorway. 

About the artist

The son of a Tokyo physician, Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (né Kinzaburo Yoshioka) is considered one of the last great masters of ukiyo-e art. As a young boy he showed remarkable talent and began to study under the renowned Kuniyoshi at the age of 12. Yoshitoshi also studied under Yosai and was adopted by the Tsukioka family.


As modernization pushed ahead, Yoshitoshi suffered a nervous breakdown in 1872, living in poverty and ceasing all artistic production. A year later, he resumed working; adopting the artist name Taiso and fulfilling his creative potential. In 1885, he began one of his most acclaimed series, 100 Views of the Moon. In the spring of 1892, he suffered his final mental breakdown and was committed to the Sugamo Asylum. On the 9th of June 1892, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 53.


Yoshitoshi’s prints are known for their eerie and imaginative component. He worked in a Japan undergoing rapid change, straddling the domains of the old, feudal systems and the new, modern world. His considerable imagination and originality imbued his prints with a sensitivity and honesty rarely seen in ukiyo-e of this time period. From ghost stories to folktales, graphic violence to the gentle glow of the moon, Yoshitoshi not only offers compositional and technical brilliance, but also unfettered passion.

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