A young 12th century noble named Tokiyori fell in love with Yokobue, a lady-in-waiting of the empress. When his father forbid their union due to her low rank, Tokiyori could not bring himself to disobey his father or marry another woman so, at the age of nineteen, he became a monk at Horin Temple. Yokobue journeyed to the mountain temple, hoping to change his mind. Tokiyori heard her sobs, but he refused to see her, afraid that he would lose his determination to become a monk. Yokobue was turned away and later became a nun herself. In this print, Yokobue leaves the temple, hands clasped and wiping her unremitting tears with her arm. In the distance, two intertwined trees symbolize two lovers, but fade into the mist along with Yokobue’s hope for happiness.
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.