Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

Mongaku's Penitence

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Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
Mongaku's Penitence
Woodblock Print
28.25" x 9.5"
Oju Yoshitoshi ga
Very good color, impression and state, embellished with embossing and mica

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Matsui Eikichi

About the art

In this print, Yoshitoshi illustrates the famous story of Mongaku: the priest who, after killing his lover, performed the penitent ritual of continuous prayer while standing under the buffeting, icy waters of the Nachi waterfall. During the ritual, Mongaku has a vision of the Buddhist guardian deity Fudo My-o, who in Yoshitoshi's version, descends to grip Mongaku by the cloak to rescue him at the moment of death, watched from above by the goddess of compassion, the beautiful Kannon. The waterfall, a constant stream of vertical blue stripes, is given further visual power through the artful flecking of mica and extreme verticality of the diptych composition allows Yoshitoshi to expand the narrative into unique and exciting views.

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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