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Remebering Yoshitoshi “Great master of Ukiyo-e “

Timetable Born Died

April 30, 1839 Edo Japan June 9th, 1982





Yoshitoshi Tsukioka lived during a period of incredible turmoil and upheaval in Japan. After the forced opening of the country by a US fleet, Japan underwent an often bloody transition from the classical Shogunate to modern Japan. Yoshitoshi’s personal life was like an analogy of this difficult era. The struggle for survival in a new world and the constant fight between tradition and westernization characterized his life. Yoshitoshi prints represent the traditional Japanese values.

The given name of Yoshitoshi was Yonejiro. We do not know much about his youth. But all indications are, that it was not a very pleasant one. His father had taken a mistress and the boy was apparently unwanted. He was brought up by his uncle. At the age of eleven, Yoshitoshi was enrolled as a student of the school of Kuniyoshi Utagawa, the great artist of ukiyo-e. One of his school class mates was Yoshiiku. Yoshiiku bullied the younger Yoshitoshi. The rivalry and hostility between both should continue for the rest of their lives. At the age of fourteen, Yoshitoshi composed his first woodblock print - a triptych of the naval battle of Dannoura in which the Minamoto clan destroyed the forces of the Taira clan in 1185. The same year, in 1853, US Commodore Perry arrived with a fleet of battle ships and forced the opening of Japan to the West.

Kuniyoshi was like a father towards Yoshitoshi. After his master had passed away in 1861, hard times were ahead of the young student. He barely had enough commissions to survive. The early sixties were a period of great unrest and civil war-like skirmishes between proponents of the old Shogun government and their opponents who gathered around the emperor. During the Shogunate, that is since 1192, the Japanese Emperors had been powerless.


Hideyori’s consort Kita no Kata standing by a window.

In addition to the political instability, a devastated economy made things worse for ordinary citizens. Japan was then in a deep recession, plagued by hyper inflation and by crop failures. In 1868 the last Shogun resigned after 2000 men of his troops were badly defeated by an imperial force in the bloody battle of Ueno. It was more of a massacre than a battle. The imperial soldiers were well-equipped with modern guns while their enemies fought with swords.

Looking relaxed

Looking feminine

Looking amuesed

Yoshitoshi eye-witnessed this battle. Immediately afterwards he composed many prints with extremely bloody and gruesome scenes - often with a black background. Certainly, these Yoshitoshi prints must be seen in connection with the events that took place in these years of upheaval. Besides, the publishing of ukiyo-e prints was always driven by the thrive for commercial success. And not much different from today’s tabloid press, themes with blood, sex and crime sold well.

Looking tasty

More facts

More Facts

•With the Meiji Restoration, Yoshitoshi experienced a short period of modest commercial success followed by a sharp decline in commissions and bitter •Inpoverty. the eighties, Yoshitoshi was able to steady his life, moved •In 1873 he recovered from his depressions and to a large house, and married changed his name to Taiso, which means “great another mistress with three chilresurrection. dren named Sakamaki Taiko. •In the eighties, Yoshitoshi •Yoshitoshi’s reputationTsukioka grew as was finally financially settled. He moved a huge house of he relentlessly composed ainto great his own and of married number prints,ainwoman spite offrom his the pleasure quarters. His school flourished. In 1882 he was bad health employed by a newspaper. •He died on June 9, 1892 from a He died on June 9, 1892 from a cerebral hermorcerebral hemorrhage rhage at the age of 53.

Looking weighed down

Beauties by Yotoshi 1877-1888

More Facts •By 1869, Yoshitoshi was regarded as one of the best woodblock artists in Japan. •However, shortly thereafter, he ceased to receive commissions, perhaps because the public were tired of scenes of violence •By 1871, Yoshitoshi became severely depressed, and his personal life became one of great turmoil

Beauties by Yotoshi 1877-1888



Designed by Stephanie Harris

Stephanie Harris  


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