Signed: Yoshitoshi, and red artist’s seal Taiso
Publisher: Akiyama Buemon
Series: One Hundred Aspects of the Moon - Tsuki hyakushi
Very fine impression of the version with the dark background. Extensive use of karazuri, overprinting on yellow and black. Fine colour, full margins. Retains original Japanese album backing.
The subject of the print is a famous out-law priest, Kumasaka, head of a band of robbers, who was killed by Minamoto Yoshitsune. Here the villain is depicted as appears in the Noh drama Kumasaka, inspired by the story. As the popular kabuki, the Noh was a form of Japanese theatre played to the high level class, usually with the use of masks.
John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi’s One hundred aspects of the moon, Leiden 2013; no. 45.
Yoshitoshi was one of the last great masters, and one of the great innovative and creative geniuses of the Japanese woodblock print. At the age of eleven, he was enrolled as a student of the school of Kuniyoshi. His early work is full of extremely graphic violence and death, perhaps mirroring the lawlessness and violence of Japan around him, which was simultaneously going through the breakdown of the feudal system imposed by the Tokugawa shoguns, as well as the impact of the West. By 1871, Yoshitoshi became severely depressed. Unable to work, he hardly produced any prints for two years. In 1873 he recovered from his depression and changed his name to Taiso, which means great resurrection. In 1882 he was employed by a newspaper. This gave him a steady income and marked the end of years of poverty. His last years were among his most productive, not only in terms of quantity, but also in terms of artistic quality. In 1885 the first designs of One Hundred Aspects of the Moon were published. This series was extremely popular. In 1888 the series 32 Aspects of Customs and Manners was published, a series of women's prints. In 1889 a new series with ghost subjects came on the market: New Form of 36 Ghosts. The symptoms of mental illness became more and more frequent. Nevertheless Yoshitoshi continued to work. He died in 1892 from a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 53.