Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Ukiyo-e Japanese Artist

Japan

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, also known as “Taisō” meaning “great resurrection,” is known as the last great master of ukiyo-e, a type of Japanese woodblock printing. The artist is also known for his turbulent life, which is evident in his energetic, complex, and beautifully violent prints.

Selected Works

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Moon at Yamaki Mansion by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Moon at Yamaki Mansion by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892). Meiji era Japanese woodblock print depicting Kato Kagekado thrusting out his helmet to deceive Taira no Kanetaka. From the series 100 Aspects of the Moon. Published by Akiyama Buemon. Published 1890.

Size: 14" h x 9 1/2" w
Condition: Excellent color and impression.

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Wanting To Go Abroad by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Wanting To Go Abroad by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892). Japanese Meiji era woodblock print depicting a woman dressed in partially European clothes and reading a western book. From the series A Collection of Desires. Published by Inoue Shigehei. Published 1877-1878.

Size: 14 1/4" h x 9 3/4" w
Condition: Excellent color and impression. A small nick to the right edge, very faint centre fold visible verso, otherwise very good condition, fine impression and colour.

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Oishi Kura-no-suke Yoshio by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Oishi Kura-no-suke Yoshio by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892).

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Gen no Sanmi Yorimasa and I no Hayata by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Gen no Sanmi Yorimasa and I no Hayata by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892).

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Kibi Daijin Seated at a Chinese Table by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Kibi Daijin Seated at a Chinese Table by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892).

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Mountain Moon After Rain Tokimune by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Mountain Moon After Rain Tokimune by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892). From the series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon. Dated 1885. Japanese woodblock print (Nishiki-e) ink on paper.

Goro Tokimune was one of the Soga brothers whose story of revenge became a legend in Japan. The two young brothers were orphaned as children when their father was killed by his rival, Kudo Suketsune. Goro was placed in a monastery to be trained as a priest, he later escaped, and he and his brother went into hiding. On a rainy night in 1193 the brothers seized their opportunity. During a hunting party of the great lords, the brothers snuck into the camp and killed Suketsune avenging their father's death. Juro, Goro's brother, was killed during the attempt at escape, and Goro was captured and later ordered to death by the then emperor Yoritomo.

This work depicts Goro Tokimune rolling up his sleeves outside of the hunting camp on Mt. Fuji before their revenge. You can see a hototogisu fly over, with the clouds and the moon in the background. The hototogisu is a Japanese cuckoo, and symbolizes the call of spirits to the next world.

Size: 14" h x 9" w (approx.) (Oban size)
Condition: Excellent colors and impression. Slight soiling to surface. Partial trimming to margins. Slight paper loss to lower part of left and right margins. Mark below signature seal.

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Maisaka by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Maisaka by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892). From the series Famous Places on the Tōkaidō. A tremendous series which was a collaboration between all of the best Ukiyo-e artists of the mid 1800's. Dated 1863. Japanese woodblock print (Nishiki-e) ink on paper.

Size: 14" h x 9" w (approx.) (Oban size)
Condition: Excellent color and impression. Right and bottom margin trimmed.

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Nomi no Sukune Wrestling by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Nomi no Sukune Wrestling with Taima no Kehaya by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892). From the series Yoshitoshi's Warriors Trembling with Courage. Meiji Era Japanese woodblock print (Nishiki-e) ink on paper. Dated 1886 (2nd edition, after the 1st edition printed in 1885).

Curator's Note:


This work depicts what is considered to be the first ever bout of sumo wrestling, which is now Japan's national sport. The print shows Nomi no Sukune wrestling Taima no Kehaya. The story is told that during the reign of emperor Suinin in 23 B.C. Nomi no Sukune fought Taima who was considered to be a nobleman of tremendous strength and enormous stature. Nomi no Sukune however delivered devastating blows during this battle as he broke Taima's ribs with a firm kick to the chest and later his back which would lead to Taima's death the following day.

As the legend goes, Taima no Kehaya boasted that he was the strongest man “under the heavens." which insulted the Emperor Suinin who then commanded Nomi no Sukune to defeat him.

The current form of sumo, which is fought in a ring, came into being during the 16th century as a result of a tournament organized by the then principal warlord in Japan, Oda Nobunaga.

Size: 14" h x 9" w (approx.) (Oban size)
Condition: Excellent color and impression. Some foxing to top margin. Partial trimming to margins. Slight staining to left and right side margins. What looks to be small pinholes in right margin.

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Inaba Mountain Moon by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Inaba Mountain Moon by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892). From the series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon. Dated 1885. Japanese woodblock print (Nishikie-e) ink on paper.

This work depicts who we expect to be Lieutenant Hideyoshi as he reaches the top of a cliff on Inaba Mountain as he ascends to Gifu Castle. The Gifu Castle dominated the landscape in Mino province and played a brief but significant role in Japanese military history during the period of civil war in the mid-1500's.

Size: 14" h x 9" w (approx.) (Oban size)
Condition: Excellent colors and impression. Partial trimming to margins. Slight staining upper left. Slight toning to verso.

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Soga no Gorō Tokimune Gosho no Gorōmaru by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Soga no Gorō Tokimune Gosho no Gorōmaru by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892). Japanese woodblock print ink on paper (Nishiki-e). Dates to circa 1886. From the series Courageous Warriors. Plate #30 from the series.

Size: 14" h x 9" w
Condition: Very good.

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Satō Shirōbyōe Tadanobu by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Satō Shirōbyōe Tadanobu by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892). Woodblock ink on paper (Nishiki-e). Dates to 1881. From the series 24 Accomplishments of Imperial Japan. Plate #16 from the series.

Size: 14" h x 9" w
Condition: Very good.

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Dawn moon of the Shinto rites by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Dawn moon of the Shinto rites (Shinji no zan茆etsu) by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Taiso) (Japan, 1839-1892). Meiji Period Japanese Woodblock Print. #33 from the series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon. Printed June 1886. Published by Akiyama Buemon. The Sanno festival is a traditional event still celebrated on even-numbered years in Tokyo. The print shows a float with a dancer impersonating the Dragon King, preceded by another float with a crowing rooster on a drum, passing Edo castle.

Size: 13-1/2" h x 9" w + Margins as shown
Condition: Excellent colors and impression, good overall condition. Backed on an acid free album page. small repair in the upper left corner.

Biography

print biography

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (月岡 芳年, Japan, 1839-1892), also known as “Taisō” (大蘇) meaning “great resurrection,” is known as the last great master of ukiyo-e, a type of Japanese woodblock printing. The artist is also known for his turbulent life, which is evident in his energetic, complex, and beautifully violent prints.

Yoshitoshi was born in old Edo, Japan in 1839 during the Meiji period. His father was a wealthy merchant who bought his way to samurai status, a decorated hierarchical position in nineteenth-century Japanese society, but was violently murdered while Yoshitoshi was a young man. In 1850, when Yoshitoshi was just 11 years old, he apprenticed with Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861), one of the great masters of woodblock printing. Yoshitoshi spent years copying Kuniyoshi’s sketches and perfecting his draftsmanship before beginning his own concentration of work. He also studied western sketches and prints that Kuniyoshi collected. Yoshitoshi took on Kuniyoshi’s practice of drawing out the images with red ink first and then outlining with black ink. On his prints, Yoshitoshi also used the signature "Ikkaisai" or "Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi" prior to 1873. It is said that Yoshitoshi used this notation to emulate his teacher Kuniyoshi's use of the studio name "Ichiyûsai.” After 1873, Yoshitoshi dropped the "Ikkaisai" signature in favor of his nickname and artist signature, “Taisō.”

Yoshitoshi’s made his first recognized print in 1853. After Kuniyoshi’s death in 1961, Yoshitoshi produced 44 prints, despite the hardship and grief he was facing after Kuniyoshi’s death. From 1862-63, Yoshitoshi produced 63 prints that depicted kabuki -theatrical, overly dramatized, and exaggerated figures. Yoshitoshi’s career spanned two eras - the last years of feudal Japan, and the first years of modern Japan following the Meiji Restoration. He was 28 when the Meiji restoration took place, and in 1877, was a witness to the Satsuma Rebellion. Yoshitoshi’s prints contained graphic violence and death scenes, parallel to the lawlessness of Japanese feudal society imposed by the Tokugawa shogunate and emergence of Westerners. What makes Yoshitoshi’s violent prints unnerving yet intriguing to viewers, is that the artist sketched real life severed heads and limbs from corpses of killed soldiers from battle he witnessed around him, including the Battle of Uneo. Yoshitoshi incorporated these witnessed accounts in his prints.

The public and foreigners were drawn instantly to his beautifully violent and colorful work. With popularity came the need to produce more work. In 1865, Yoshitoshi made over 95 published designs- mostly historical or based on military subjects. Included in the 95 prints were two series-Tsûzoku Saiyûki (A Modern Journey to the West), about a Chinese folk-hero who is shown as a monkey, and Wakan Hyaku Monogatari (One Hundred Stories of China and Japan), which depict traditional Japanese ghost stories. Yoshitoshi also designed the series, Kinsei Kyôgiden (Biographies of Modern Men), which displays fighting scenes between two gambling troupes. However, some of Yoshitoshi’s most graphically violent prints were created from 1866-68. The series Eimei Nijûhasshûku (Twenty-eight famous murders with verse) show stabbings and decapitations of men and women that are intensely bloody and gruesome. Yoshitoshi also created the series Azuma No Nishiki Ukiyo Kôdan (Tales of the Floating World on the Eastern Brocade) in 1867. Then in 1868, following the Battle of Ueno, Yoshitoshi created a series of prints called Kaidai Hyaku Sensô (Selection of a 100 Warriors), which portrays close-up, foreshortened, and unusual angles of fighting military soldiers. He also produced his great series Tsuki Hyakushi (One Hundred Aspects of the Moon) (1885 - 1892), and Shingata Sanju-roku Kai Sen (New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts) (1889 - 1892).

By 1869, Yoshitoshi was considered Japan’s best artist and printmaker. He also worked with his friend and actor, Danjuro, and the group, Kyûkokai (Committee for Research into the Past), comprised of scholars and historians, to preserve some of the traditional Japanese arts. The woodblock-print art form was dying in the transition to Japan’s modernization and artists began turning to mass production techniques like lithography and photography. Yoshitoshi was one of the last sole woodblock printmakers after his mentor Kuniyoshi and the notable artists Hiroshige and Kunisada passed on. Yoshitoshi insisted on high standards of woodblock and print production and helped save it temporarily from degeneracy. Despite Yoshitoshi’s popularity from his violent prints, the artist lived in poverty for most of his life. With the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877, Yoshitoshi was able to fully support himself with the demand for prints and illustrations for circulating newspapers. The artist was not financially secure until 1882. However, the artist struggled with lifelong mental illness and depression and was submitted to a mental facility in his late 40s.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi died June 9, 1892 at age 53 from a cerebral hemorrhage. Yoshitoshi’s complex and energetic work is highly regarded and can be found in numerous collections and major museums like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, British Museum, Hagi Uragumi Museum in Yamaguchi, and the Edo-Tokyo Museum, among others.