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Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892)

Yoshitoshi was the most influential woodblock print artist of Meiji era Japan. His prints shimmer with energy and bring to life the tales of ancient Japan: the downfall of the once mighty, untouchable beauty, military conquests, and slices of everyday life. A consummate draftsman and imaginative designer, he brought creativity, emotion, and elegance to images that continue to resonate with audiences today.

Early life

Yoshitoshi was born in Edo in 1839, the son of a samurai. In 1850, at the age of eleven, he enrolled as a pupil of renowned woodblock artist Kuniyoshi, later studying under Kunisada.

The 1860s were a time of increasing political unrest in Japan. A witness to the Battle of Ueno, a massacre of the shogun's supporters by Imperial forces in 1868, Yoshitoshi's bloody battle prints during this period reflect the violence and upheaval of the time.

Woodblock printing

He experienced some commercial success in the late 1860s, earning popularity designing prints for newspapers, but in 1871 he fell into a deep depression, living in poverty and unable to work. The year 1873 marked a rebirth for Yoshitoshi, as he emerged from his illness and began using a new go or artist name: Taiso, which means great resurrection. The following decades would see the production of his greatest work, including his masterwork series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, as well as New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts, and Thirty-two Aspects of Customs and Manners.

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