Taiso Yoshitoshi / Japan 1839–1892 / August: Somezono watching the moon over Shinagawa Harbor (from ‘Pride of Tokyo’s Twelve Months’ series) 1880 / Colour woodblock print on paper / 38 x 26cm / Purchased 1997 with funds from the International Exhibitions Program

Taiso Yoshitoshi
August: Somezono watching the moon over Shinagawa Harbor (from ‘Pride of Tokyo’s Twelve Months’ series) 1880

Not Currently on Display

Although popular opinion regards ukiyo-e (woodblock print) production as having been in decline in the second half of the nineteenth century, some of the most bizarre and interesting imagery emerged at this time, in part driven by the interrelationship between East and West. Yoshitoshi, a pupil of Kuniyoshi, preserved vigour in the figurative print during these years of social, political and artistic upheaval.

This image incorporates all the high-key colour and complex patterning that characterises bijin-ga (beautiful women) prints from this period. The sombre atmospheric mood, which appears to be typical of Yoshitoshi’s work, does not diminish the obvious glamour of the print’s subject.

Taiso Yoshitoshi was an outstanding figure in Meiji Japan. Yoshitoshi had been a pupil of Kuniyoshi, and was a leading ukiyo-e artist of the late Meiji Period. Among the series of prints produced by him are, typically, those which depict beautiful women. However, Yoshitoshi is also remembered for his sense of humour, which infuses series of images concerning Japanese history and mythology.

Interest in Yoshitoshi’s work has increased during the last two decades as the garish colouring and bizarre compositions of late ukiyo-e imagery has become palatable to contemporary tastes. His compositions preserved vigour in the figure print during the late 19th century period of social, political and artistic upheaval in Japan in the wake of the Meiji Restoration and an acceptance of Western-style government.