This print illustrates a story described in the 13th century compilation, Uji shui monogatari (‘Tales Gleaned from Uji’), regarding Fujiwara no Yasumasa (958-1036), a musician at the Heian court, and his brother, Kidomaru (Hakamadare Yasusake), who had become an outlaw rather than serve under the powerful warrior Raiko. In this story, Yasumasa plays his flute while traveling home at night while his brother prepares to ambush Yasumasa and rob him of his fine robes. When Kidomaru approaches to attack, he is stopped, enchanted by Yasumasa’s flute-playing. When Yasumasa reaches his home and discovers his brother following him, he generously gives Kidomaru his robes and tells him “you only had to ask” or “Next time, ask”.
One of the best stories and scenes from Yoshitoshi’s famous series “One Hundred Aspects of the Moon”.
The Woodblock Print
This woodblock is in fine to very fine condition, with small professional patching applied to areas that had become thin around the edges of the margins. Good color, nice bokashi shading in the evening sky, vibrant colors on the figures’ clothing.
About the Artist
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (芳年, April 30, 1839 – June 9, 1892) was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist who is widely regarded as one of the last great masters of the traditional woodblock print. He is known for his dynamic and vivid depictions of historical and supernatural subjects, often featuring intense and dramatic compositions.
Yoshitoshi was born in Edo (modern-day Tokyo), Japan, in 1839. He was the son of a samurai, and he began his artistic training as a student of the ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi at a young age. He also studied under other prominent ukiyo-e artists, including Utagawa Kunisada and Toyokuni III. Yoshitoshi’s early works were characterized by a lively and expressive style, featuring scenes from Japanese folklore, theater, and history.
In the 1860s, Yoshitoshi entered a period of artistic maturity, during which he created some of his most iconic works. His prints during this period often featured vivid and dramatic images of ghosts, demons, and historical figures. Yoshitoshi was also known for his innovative use of color, which he used to heighten the emotional impact of his works. His mature works were highly regarded for their technical mastery and artistic vision.
Despite his artistic success, Yoshitoshi faced personal struggles throughout his life. He suffered from depression and anxiety, which were exacerbated by the death of his wife and the decline of the ukiyo-e industry. His mental health struggles are reflected in some of his works, which feature dark and disturbing subject matter. However, his artistic output remained prolific throughout his life.
As modernization pushed ahead following the opening of Japan to the West, Yoshitoshi suffered a nervous breakdown in 1872, living in poverty and ceasing all artistic production. In the 1880s, Yoshitoshi suffered a breakdown and spent some time in a mental institution. He returned to work after his release, adopting the artist name Taiso. In 1885, he began one of his most acclaimed series, “100 Views of the Moon”. In the spring of 1892, he suffered his final mental breakdown and was committed to the Sugamo Asylum; he died shortly of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 53.
- “Yoshitoshi: Masterpieces from the Ed Freis Collection” by Chris Uhlenbeck and Amy Reigle Newland
- “Yoshitoshi’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon” by John Stevenson
- “Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: A Selection of One Hundred Prints from One Hundred Aspects of the Moon” by Jack Hunter