Murasaki Shikibu wrote the famed Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji) at the beginning of the 11th century. The drama follows the romantic adventures of the irresistibly attractive Prince Genji. In this spirit, Yoshitoshi portrays the most mysterious of Genji’s lovers. The story tells that Genji fell in love with her at the sight of her handwriting. Persist as he might, the beauty would not reveal her true identity, so he called her Yugao (evening glory), after the morning glory-like flowers that grew around her dilapidated house. One night, she agreed to accompany Genji to one of his lavish villas. After they consummated their love, Yugao died very suddenly, killed by a jealous spirit of a former mistress. Yoshitoshi portrays her as a wistful ghost, delicate and pale as the flower of her namesake. This work brings together two popular themes in ukiyo-e: the Tale of Genji and yokai (ghosts and strange apparitions).
Other impressions of this print can be found in the British Museum, and Waseda University Theatre Museum.
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.