The ill-fated warrior, Saito Kuranosuke Toshimitsu, must have been one of Yoshitoshi’s favorite historical characters, since he is depicted in two separate prints in this series. Toshimitsu was originally a retainer of the Saito family of Mino province. Later, he served Akechi Mitsuhide. Mitsuhide allied with the successful military leader Oda Nobunga, yet soon sought revenge for Nobunga’s persistent chastisement. Toshimitsu tried to persuade Mitsuhide not to attack Oda Nobunaga, but when Mitsuhide attacked Nobunaga anyway, Toshimitsu joined forces with him. Toshimitsu was captured soon after the battle and became a monk. As the last hint of sunset fades on the horizon and the moon hangs high, Yoshitoshi depicts the warrior in full armor, scouting the land before the battle.
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.