Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

The Moon of Shinobugaoka

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Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
The Moon of Shinobugaoka
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, oxidation and embossing, woodgrain visible.


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Akiyama Buemon

About the art

Shinobugaoka was known for its cherry trees. Visitors would flock to the area to enjoy the transient beauty of the sakura blossoms in early spring. Known today as Ueno Park in northeast Tokyo, the area continues to be a blossom-viewing destination. Admiring cherry blossoms was a favorite spring pastime during the Edo period. Kimono would be attached to trees to create temporary enclosures where people could enjoy a picnic as they gazed at the sakura. In this print, the young samurai, Gyokuensai, stands beneath a cherry tree on a blustery moonlit night. The breeze flips the edge of the hanging kimono to reveal an ornate lacquered picnic box, but the man appears to be alone. As pale petals swirl in the light of the crescent moon, they represent fleeting beauty. Gyokuensai looks over his shoulder, clad in a beautifully printed black-on- black patterned kimono. 

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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