One night, Taira no Tadanori went to pay a moonlit visit to his mistress, Kiku no Ma, but he was disappointed to find that she had a guest. After waiting many hours for the guest to leave, he began to fan himself impatiently as he paced back and forth outside the house. Kiku heard his frustrated fanning and recited a famous poem:
“Ah, how loudly sounds/ as if the wild plain were small/ The hum of insects. I have many things to say, / but I will remain silent .”
When he heard the poem, Tadanori left. In this print, Tadanori tries to peek into the softly illuminated room. Fan anxiously in hand, he leans forward, listening for some recognition of his presence by his mistress. His stance expresses his impatience.
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.