Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, Musashi Plain Moon, One Hundred Aspects of the Moon
Artist: Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892)
Title: 91. Musashi Plain Moon
Series: One Hundred Aspects of the Moon
Publisher: Hasegawa Tsunejiro
Size: 35.4 x 24.0 cm
Condition report: Backed. Left margin added. Stains and small writing on the back.
A mist descends on a magic vixen gazing at her reflection in the water: behind her, a large moon eerily lights the grasses and violet bellflowers on Musashi Plain. Located near Edo, the area was believed to be haunted by foxes who possessed special powers which enabled them to take the guise of humans, particularly that of beautiful women. Foxes often appear in a variety of roles in Japanese folklore, serving as the messengers of the Shinto god of the rice harvest Inari, and as guileful trickers who outwit humans. Hiroshige I also made allusion to these folktales at the end of his One Hundred Famous Views of Edo series, depicting a gathering of magic foxes on Musashi Plain.
The pose of the fox is almost humanlike, suggesting that the fox is at the transitory moment of transformation. Each impression of the shadow is unique, the spectral effect produced by a technique similar to the Rinpa tarashikomi where after a colour had been laid down and dried, another pigment or ink was blended with it.
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.
|Print Format||Oban (Vertical)|
|Subject||Ghosts & Religion, Animal & Birds|
|Dimensions||35.4 x 24.0 cm|
|Series||One Hundred Aspects of the Moon|