Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892)

Poem by Takao

Series: 100 Views of the Moon
Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: 1885
Size (H x W): 14 x 9.5 (inches)
Publisher: Akiyama Buemon
Seals: Yoshitoshi
Signature: Yoshitoshi
Conditon: Very good color and impression, slight water damage on upper right corner, album backing, light surface soiling, embellished with embossing

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The name Takao was used successively by eleven different courtesans in the Yoshiwara, the famous pleasure district of Edo. Each of them was not only beautiful, but also well-versed in the arts of music and poetry. Yoshitoshi depicts the sixth courtesan, known for her literary talents. The haiku in the cartouche describes her longing for her lover: “By now you must be/ somewhere near Komagata/ A nightingale is singing.” Yoshitoshi dresses the beauty in the elegant fashion of the late 17th century, alluding to a golden age when courtesans were valued for both their talents and beauty. He also includes a set of linked verses rife with subtle eroticism.

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. 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 nature. 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.