In the noh play Kinuta, Cloth Beating, a man who has been away from Kyoto for three years sends his maid, Yugiri, back to his home to tell his wife that he will soon return. Yugiri arrives in Kyoto and tries to comfort the lonely wife. The two hear the sound of cloth being beaten, a sound that recalls a famous poem about a wife missing her husband. In an effort to comfort the lady of the house, Yugiri begins to beat cloth with a wooden mallet to make it soft. As the wife joins in this task, she wonders whether the wind will carry the mournful sound through the autumn night to her distant husband. In Yoshitoshi’s imagining of this scene, the two women are disconnected; the lady of the house is completely absorbed in her task, while Yugiri sits respectfully behind her.
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.