Wu Yun, also called Wu Zixu (in Japanese, Go Shinsho), was the son of the prime minister of the state of Chu in ancient China. When the king of Chu murdered his father and brother, Wu Zixu was forced to flee to the neighboring state of Wu. W hen he led a campaign back to Chu, he was ferried across the river by a fisherman. While the title suggests that this story is the subject of this print, scholars recognize a second possibility: The story of Jiang Ziya. Emperor Shi Bei found Jiang Ziya on the bank of the river fishing with a strait nail on a pole with no bait. When asked why, he explained that he was more focused of philosophizing than catching fish, yet the fish came to his nail anyhow. The emperor took the man as his counselor and he served the emperor admirably for twenty years.
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.