In this famous fairy tale, an old bamboo cutter discovered a tiny baby girl inside of a hollow bamboo stem. He took her home to his wife, where the child grew into a beautiful young woman in a miraculously short time. Her name was Kaguyahime, “Shining Princess.” Many suitors courted her, but she gave each an impossible task and each was defeated. When the emperor heard of her beauty, he asked for her hand in marriage. Finally, Kaguyahime revealed that she had come from the moon to answer the old couple’s desire for a child, but that she must now leave them and return to her home. Yoshitoshi depicts her heavenly ascent. The bamboo cutter has fallen to his knees as he begs her not to go, arms raised in his plea. Kaguyahime rises on a cloud, but her face reveals her hesitation to leave her earthly family.
The son of a Tokyo physician, Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (né Kinzaburo Yoshioka) is considered one of the last great masters of ukiyo-e. 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.