Born to the Lord of Heaven, the Weaver Maiden Shokujo was responsible for weaving the fabric of heaven. She worked diligently until the day she fell in love with the Herdsboy Kengyu. The two were married and Shokujo stopped weaving. Her father became exasperated and determined that the lovers would only meet once a year, separating the two with the River of Heaven, or the Milky Way. Each year, on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, the couple would be reunited. This story, originally a Chinese myth, has become the basis of the Japanese Tanabata Festival. The heavenly couple is represented by the stars Vega and Aquila, which come into conjunction during the festival days. Yoshitoshi depicts the couple on opposite cloudbanks, moments away from their yearly reunion.
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.