Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

Akashi Gidayu

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


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Akiyama Buemon

About the art

Akashi Gidayu served as a general for Akechi Mitsuhide. Following a complete defeat of his forces, he offered to commit seppuku, an honorable death by suicide, to pay for his failure. Though his master refused, Gidayu was so overcome by shame that he disobeyed his master’s command and killed himself. Yoshitoshi presents Gidayu in his final moments. His death poem is before him, knife unsheathed. His hair is disheveled and the tiger painted on the screen glares reproachfully at Gidayu, its yellow eyes aware of his desperate shame. According to the poem, he feels that even the moon in the sky is mocking his despair. Once again, Yoshitoshi portrays the emotional struggle of this individual rather than the violent act that soon follows. 

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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