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A look at Tsukioka Yoshitoshi on his 175th birthday

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 30, 2014 12:32pm | Post a Comment

Kanaki Toshikage portrait of Yoshitoshi

One of Japan's greatest artists, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, was born on this day in 1839, which I reckon makes it as good a time as any to blog about him. For those unfamiliar, Yoshitoshi is widely regarded as one of ukiyo-e's greatest innovators, as well as its last major practitioner. He produced an enormous body of work (about 10,000 pieces by some estimates) although he's best known for his bloody pieces -- which comprise a large chunk of his oeuvre. After falling out of fashion amongst Japanese art collectors, he was "rediscovered" in the 1970s and is now rightfully placed amongst the ukiyo-e greats.

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Yoshitoshi was born Owariya Yonejiro (???), in the Shimbashi district of Edo (now Tokyo), in 1839. His father, Owariya Kinzabur?, was a wealthy merchant and samurai. The identity of his mother is unknown, although Kinzabur?'s mistress, apparently not wanting the share their home with the child, sent him off to live with an otherwise childless relative, Ky?ya Orizabur?, when Yonejiro was about three. At the age of five, after showing interest in art, the pharmacist uncle (or cousin by other accounts) began offering the young boy art instruction.

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