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Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892)

Buddhist Monk Receives Cassia Seeds on a Moonlit Night

Series: 100 Views of the Moon
Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: 1891
Size (H x W): 14.5 x 9.5 (inches)
Publisher: Akiyama Buemon
Seals: Taiso
Signature: Yoshitoshi
Conditon: Very fine color and impression, light original album backing, embellished with black lacquer and embossing.

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Description

A priest holds up his begging bowl to catch the seeds that fall from the cassia trees on the moon. These seeds possessed the gift of immortality and invisibility. The priest’s facial features, earrings, and distinctive clothing indicate that he is an Arhat (in Japanese, Rakan), a disciple of Buddha who has achieved enlightenment. These Buddhist saints are popular subjects in both Chinese and Japanese art. Though the glowing circle appears to be the moon, it is in fact the Arhat’s glowing halo. It is the cassia seeds that allude to the moon in this print. 

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. 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 nature. 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.