Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
As the years passed, many places of Japan are being reform. Japan was ruled over by an Emperor; however, during the Shogunate and the Emperor war against each other, Japan was formed to become more modernize like the United States. One of the famous and greatest masters of art is Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. Yoshitoshi was a great, innovative and creative genius of the Japanese woodblock prints, which published so many famous masterpieces (Chiappa).
-Prints From Yoshitoshi-
(click on the image to enlarge)
| |Images credited to and permission granted by Jim Breen
Yoshitoshi was born in Edo (Tokyo) in 1839 with a given name of Owariya Yongiro (Chiappa). Yoshitoshi had an unpleasant childhood. His father was a rich merchant, took in a mistress, and Yoshitoshi was apparently unwanted ("Yoshitoshi," Artelino). His uncle, Tsukioka Sessai, a pharmacist, raised him in Shinbashi. At age eleven, Yoshitoshi was enrolled in the school of Kuniyoshi ("Yoshitoshi," CastleFineArts). His master gave the name Yoshitoshi to him. When he was fourteen, Yoshitoshi’s first print, a triptych, in 1853; however, he did not produce any work for two years due to his master’s illness. After his master’s death in 1861, hard times began to envelope him, barely enough commission to survive ("Yoshitoshi Taiso"); however, he manages to produce some work (Chiappa). Yoshitoshi supported himself by designing prints of famous Kabuki actors of the day ("Yoshitoshi," CastleFineArts).
Yoshitoshi early works were full of exceedingly graphic violence and death based on his eye-witnessed of the influence in 1860s of the breakdown of the feudal system compel by the Shoguns, and the impact of the West (Chiappa). His fame grew and by 1869, he was one of the best woodblock artists in Japan (Chiappa). The early sixties were a period of great unrest and civil warlike skirmishes between proponents of the Shogun government and their opponents who gathered around the emperor ("Yoshitoshi," Artelino). A total amount of 240 designs were published from a newspaper, which ranked him the number one woodblock print artist.
In 1871, Yoshitoshi became depressed because the public began not to enjoy the violence prints he made. His personal life became chaos, which continue throughout the rest of his lives. He recovered from his depression in 1873, and changed his name to Taiso, which means “great resurrection” ("Yoshitoshi," Taiso). He had experience embarrassing moments during his time of depressions. His wife, Okoto, sold herself to a brothel to raise money to support him, after selling off all her clothes and possessions ("Yoshitoshi," Taiso). In 1877, the political changed and there were demands for illustration and Yoshitoshi was flooded with commission ("Yoshitoshi," Artelino). Also, Yoshitoshi married another mistress named Oraku; however, like Okoto, sold all her clothes and possessions, and hired her to a brothel after they separated.
In the eighties, Yoshitoshi was able to steady his life, moved to a large house, and married another mistress with three children named Sakamaki Taiko. Unlike his other two wives, her gentle and patient manners soothe him and he was able to produce designs for 120 illustrated books ("Yoshitoshi," CastleFineArts). Yoshitoshi’s reputation grew as he relentlessly composed a great number of prints, in spite of his bad health ("Yoshitoshi," Taiso). In 1891, he began to lose control of his mind ("Yoshitoshi," CastleFineArts). Even though his symptoms of mental illness became more and more frequent, he still continues to work. Yoshitoshi died on June 9, 1892 from a cerebral hemorrhage, at the age of 53 ("Yoshitoshi," Taiso). Before he died, he had written a death poem saying:
Holding back the night
With its increasing brilliance
The summer moon
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi was a pupil of Utawaga Kuniyoshi (Fiorillo). His images ranged from tense and violent to silent and serene. He was able to make people relive the recent and distant past by publishing prints of Japan’s legends, histories, tradition and customs (Fiorillo). His final series of prints was “New forms of Thirty-six ghosts”, which was published by Sasaki Toyokichi between April 1889 and July 1892 (Fiorillo). He was characterized as the last great master of the ukiyo-e prints. Even though, Yoshitoshi went through many obstacle and embarrassing moments, he was able to publish many prints and make his reputation grew throughout Japan.