Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

The Moon on Musashi Plain

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Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
The Moon on Musashi Plain
100 Views of the Moon
Woodblock Print
14.5" x 9.5"
Very fine color and impression, light original album backing, embellished with embossing.


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Akiyama Buemon

About the art

The former Musashi Plain is now a suburb of Tokyo, but centuries ago, the area was known for its views of the moon and its magic foxes. These animals play a special role in Japanese folklore. They are loyal messengers of the Shinto god Inari, but also sly tricksters that enjoyed playing practical jokes on hapless humans. They can assume human form, like the priest in the print “Cry of the Fox,”, often transforming into beautiful women. In this print, a fox admires its reflection in the water, perhaps in preparation to transform itself into one such beauty. Yoshitoshi delicately expresses its moonlit reflection as heavy fog settles on the bank. The work presents the standard iconography of Musashi Plain—the large moon, the windswept grass, and the open sky—while heightening the mystery of the scene through the presence of the fox. 

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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