Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

Itsukushima Moon: A Muro Courtesan

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Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
Itsukushima Moon: A Muro Courtesan
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 red and black lacquer.


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Akiyama Buemon

About the art

Located southwest of Hiroshima, the island of Itsukushima (today Miyajima) is one of the three sankei, or “most scenic spots in Japan.” The island is home to a famous shrine to Susano-o, a wild Shinto deity of the moon and sea, heavily patronized by the Taira family before their tragic downfall. In this print, a high-ranking 12th century courtesan approaches the island at high tide. The main torii is partially submerged as she sails in the moonlight. The small drum, which is visible in the bottom of the boat, shows that she is a dancer, perhaps visiting Itsukushima for the annual festival. Beside her sits a large travelling hat with a long scarlet veil and decorative tassels hanging from it. 

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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