Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

Moon of the Enemy's Lair: Little Prince Usu

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Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
Moon of the Enemy's Lair: Little Prince Usu
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 embossing.

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Akiyama Buemon

About the art

The famous hero O-Usu was the son of Emperor Keiko, who ruled Yamato during legendary times. O-Usu was sent to quell the rebellion of the Kumaso, a native people in Kyushu. As young and beautiful as he was strong and fierce, the young hero borrowed clothes and disguised himself as a woman. In this disguise, he was able to infiltrate an enemy banquet and kill both of the Kumaso leaders. He was thereafter called Yamatotakeru no Mikoto, “The Champion of Japan.” Yoshitoshi presents the hero on his way to join the women. While his costume is convincing, behind his back his sword blade catches the moonlight, foreshadowing the violence to come. 

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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