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Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892)

The Moon at Obasute-yama

Series: 100 Views of the Moon
Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: 1891
Size (H x W): 14.5 x 9.5 (inches)
Publisher: Akiyama Buemon
Seals: Taiso
Signature: Yoshitoshi
Conditon: Very fine color and impression, light original album backing, embellished with embossing.



The name Obasute-yama means “The Mountain Where Old Women are Abandoned” and refers to a centuries old custom in Nagano province. When old people became too much of a burden, they would be carried into the mountains and left to die. This harsh practice inspired a noh play called Obasute, in which a man from the capital visits the mountain and the ghost of the forsaken old lady appears to him. The gnarled old pine tree and the half-hidden moon give this print a melancholy feeling. Yoshitoshi presents a peasant carrying an old woman to her death, but the figures are distant, expressionless, and secondary to the ancient pine that cuts through the composition. 

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.