Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, Jigoku-dayu, Hell Courtesan, New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts

£1500
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JG111750
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Artist: Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892)
Title: 12. The Enlightenment of Jigoku-dayu
Series: New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts
Publisher: Sasaki Toyokichi
Date: 1889

Original Japanese woodblock print. 

 

A former courtesan, the lady portrayed in this print is known to have eventually converted to a religious life. Dayu is a term of respect for the highest rank of courtesan, while jigoku (hell) is the lowest form of an unlicensed person working in the pleasure quarters. Her robe is appropriately decorated with scenes of torture of the Buddhist Hell. Kannon, the goddess of mercy, appears on the front of her robe design.

 

The initial print design shows skeletons on a procession in the background, however, this detail is missing in this print. Faced with the vision of the impermanence of life, Jigoku-dayu must have acknowledged her errors in this way. Yoshitoshi himself is known to have had an affair with a beautiful courtesan and her image inspired several of his designs, including this one.

Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839 - 1892)


Yoshitoshi Tsukioka was one of the leading woodblock print artists during the Meiji era (1868-1912) and one of the last to work in the traditional ukiyo-e manner. Born in Edo (today’s Tokyo), he showed a strong interest in classical Japanese literature and history. When he was 11, he became a student at Kuniyoshi Utagawa’s studio. Under his teacher’s guidance, he showed exquisite draftsmanship and learned how to draw from life, something not necessarily part of the training schools of painting and illustration in Japan.

Yoshitoshi’s rise as an artist came at a time when Japan was faced with great changes and challenges. The new Meiji era (1868-1912) brought many conflicts between those loyal to tradition and those wishing to embark on a process of forced modernisation and adoption of western values. These sentiments, along with having witnessed some of the violent uprisings, influenced his early career, with intense, often disturbing images that reflect turmoil and pain. Even so, many other prints from this early period show whimsical touches, with reinterpretation of themes seen in his teacher Kuniyoshi’s works. With deep cultural roots, Yoshitoshi’s style was dynamic and distinctive: he was known for experimentation in style and genre, as well as for his innovative works. He worked on series depicting kabuki actors, bijinga (pictures of beautiful women), warriors, monsters and ghosts. Supernatural themes abound in his later work, showing a fascination for old Japanese folk stories.

The publishing of Yoshitoshi’s most popular series 'One Hundred Aspects of the Moon' commenced in 1885 and spanned a wide variety of subjects, such as warrior, animals, ghosts, natural phenomena, beauties and others. The artist’s early tendency for gore and horror was replaced by images of lyricism, calm, spirituality and psychological depth. 'Thirty-two Aspects of Customs and Manners', published in 1888, shows Yoshitoshi’s ability to portray emotions like no other artist of his time, presenting women of various background and eras in Japanese history, each with distinct traits.

In 1889, the series 'New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts' started to be published, showing images of apparitions, mostly based on folklore and plays, depicted powerfully and imaginatively. This was, perhaps, a catharsis for the artist who claimed to have seen ghosts and strongly believed in supernatural beings. Many of Yoshitoshi’s late works were acclaimed at a time when western techniques of mass production such as photography were making the woodblock obsolete, breaking new ground by portraying intense human feelings through a traditional medium. He became a master teacher and had notable pupils such as Toshikata Mizuno and Toshihide Migita.

More Information
Print FormatOban (Vertical)
ArtistYoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839 - 1892)
SubjectBeauty & Female, Ghosts & Religion
Size37.1 x 25.2 cm
Condition ReportHorizontal half fold mark in the middle. Faint creases on the bottom edge and along the left-hand side edge. Brown smudges on the right. Faint spot.
SeriesNew Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts::Yoshitoshi Tsukioka
publisherSasaki Toyokichi:1885-1898