Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

The Moon of the Red Cliffs

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Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
The Moon of the Red Cliffs
100 Views of the Moon
Woodblock Print
14.5" x 9.5"
Yoshitoshi sha
Very fine color and impression, light original album backing, embellished with embossing.


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Akiyama Buemon

About the art

This work illustrates a pair of famous poems by the Chinese poet Su Dongpo, the “First and Second Odes on the Red Cliffs.” In 1082, the poet and his friends set out to view the Red Cliffs on the Yangtze River. Centuries ago, the great leader Cao Cao was defeated beneath these looming cliffs. The emotions aroused by the sight of the moonlight on the water and the memories of heroes long dead are beautifully described in these famous poems. Su Dongpo, also known as Su Shi, was a member of the Chinese literati during the Song dynasty. Members of this group were court officials that were also identified by their amateur talent in poetry, painting, and calligraphy. The story of the Red Cliffs was a popular artistic subject for this 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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