Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

Moon and Smoke

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Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
Moon and Smoke
100 Views of the Moon
Woodblock Print
14.5" x 9.5"
Very fine color and impression, light original album backing, embellished with oxidation and hand splattered gofun, one very small worm hole on upper margin area.


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Akiyama Buemon

About the art

Fires were such a common occurrence in Edo that they became ironically known as the “flowers of Edo.” Since traditional Japanese houses were constructed almost entirely of paper and wood, the slightest spark could cause tragedy. Teams of professional firefighters were organized to combat these frequent disasters. The firemen were colorful characters known for their competitive team spirit. Each team was identified by emblems on their protective clothing and by elaborate standards called matoi, such as the one held by the firemen in the foreground. Here, a single fireman considers the scene, still before the blaze with his matoi. Through the smoke, a shadowy figure holds the matoi of rival group. 

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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