Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

Moon of the Pleasure Quarters

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Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
Moon of the Pleasure Quarters
100 Views of the Moon
Woodblock Print
14.5" x 9.5"
Very fine color and impression, light original album backing, embellished with embossing and black and purple lacquer.


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Akiyama Buemon

About the art

Each spring, the cherry trees along the main avenue of the Yoshiwara, Edo’s licensed pleasure district, burst into bloom. Like the delicate cherry blossoms, the courtesans were transitory beauties. In this print, Yoshitoshi depicts a courtesan out on a moonlit stroll with her small kamuro, or apprentice. High atop her geta, or clogs, the courtesan gazes at the young girl who has stopped to watch the petals fall in the lamplight. The high clogs denote her special social status, and the pale petals blend with the pattern of her outer kimono. Yoshitoshi uses the word kuruwa in the title of this print. While it originally referred to an enclosed area of a castle, it came to mean an enclosed pleasure quarter, such as the famous Yoshiwara. 

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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