Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, Yukimori, Courageous Warriors


Artist: Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892)
Title: Yamanaka Shikanosuke Yukimori Praying
Series: Yoshitoshi's Courageous Warriors
Publisher: Kobayashi Tetsujiro
Date: 1883
Dimensions: 24.3 x 36.1 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.


Yamanaka Yukimori (1545-1578), a loyal samurai of the Warring States period ( c. 1467-1600) prays beneath a new moon. Defeated in an earlier battle, Yukimori swore that he would accept the 'seven troubles and eight pains' of Buddhist suffering in order to preserve the Amako clan in the hostile climate of the age. The warrior's affiliation with the moon was apparent since birth, being born under a harvest moon. His retainer holds his helmet fitted with deer antlers and a crescent moon ornament, his totem and amulet. The armour has been printed with a jet black lacquered effect whilst the whole scene glitters with mica powder, alluding to the moonlight reflecting in the river.


Yoshitoshi also felt this proximity to the celestial body, with his family name using the Chinese character for the moon. This connection culminated in his major series 'One Hundred Aspects of the Moon' among other of his works that used the subject. The artist surely recognised the similarities between Yukimori and himself, whom both had various points of their lives marked by the mysterious allure of the moon.





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)
SubjectSamurai & Male, Landscapes
Size24.3 x 36.1 cm
Condition ReportPencil marking on the upper margin. Some creases. Minor tear on the left margin. Slightly trimmed. Small red pigment spot on the upper right cartouche.
SeriesCourageous Warrior::Yoshitoshi Tsukioka