This print shows Minamoto no Yoshitsune soaring through the air during his famous duel with Benkei at Gojo Bridge. Although Yoshitsune was still very young at the time, he defeated the ferocious Benkei, who then became his most faithful follower. The story tells that Benkei waited in the shadows at this bridge to steal the swords of all who crossed. One evening, seventeen-year-old Yoshitsune approached the bridge playing his flute, his fine sword on his hip. Benkei expected a quick victory, yet Yoshitsune proved an undefeatable opponent and Benkei admitted defeat. Yoshitoshi captures Yoshitsune’s talent for martial arts, depicting the young warrior in mid-air.
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.