Maeda no Munehisa was a powerful 16th century priest at Mt. Hiei temple. He is also known by his priestly name, Gen’i. When Oda Nobunga fell to Akechi Mistuhide, Munehisa guarded the life of Nobunga’s son. Rewarded for his loyalty and recognized for his talents, Munehisa received a high office and became a political priest. During his time as governor of Kyoto, Munehisa beautified the city. Yoshitoshi portrays Munehisa in his priestly robes, composing a poem at a low, lacquer and gold table. Overwhelmed by the beauty of the moonlight, he writes:
“I usually dislike a cloudy sky
tonight I realize that a cloudy sky
makes me appreciate the light of the moon.”
Yoshitoshi captures the beauty of this moonlight through the overprinted branches of outside and the golden silhouette glowing through the bamboo blinds.
The son of a Tokyo physician, Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (né Kinzaburo Yoshioka) is considered one of the last great masters of ukiyo-e. 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.