Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

Cassia-tree Moon: Wu Gang

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Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
Cassia-tree Moon: Wu Gang
100 Views of the Moon
Woodblock Print
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

In Chinese mythology, eight ten-thousand-foot cassia trees grow on the moon. Each tree sheds its crimson leaves in autumn, giving the Harvest Moon its signature color. Though the trees are not actually shown in this print, we see the immortal axe- wielder, Wu Gang. A learned Daoist, he possessed great magic but exploited that magic to evil ends. The gods could not take away his powers, so he was condemned to hew down the ever-growing boughs of the trees until the end of the world. In this print, In this Tsukioka Yoshitoshi art print, Wu Gang considers his punishment but does not seem troubled by this eternal sentence. He points to the moon, mouth open beneath his heavy beard, seemingly awed by the task at hand. 

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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