Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) Eastern Pictures of Heroic Women Compared: Makiko, 1880. Oban.
Such a well put together picture, this portrait of the wife of Ohashi Totsuan is beautifully and sensitively realised and very well displays the conflict of Yoshitoshi’s loyalties and therefore, his art. This is a short series of seemingly innocuous portraits of nine women engaged in mainly domestic tasks. The nine women are however not what they seem. All the subjects are in some way connected to the Satsuma Rebellion or else they are heroic upholders of traditional Japanese values. Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when reformers (ironically from the southern Satsuma region) forcibly restored the titular Emperor, dislodging the centuries old Tokugawa Shogunate, there remained considerable disquiet amongst the old samurai class. The new government reforms led to the marginalisation of traditional values and in 1877 there commenced a final, brief civil war.
The outcome was the defeat of traditionalist rebels at Kagoshima in Satsuma. The war restored Yoshitoshi’s flagging career and he produced a number of prints including several triptychs that recorded the events and the characters of the rebellion. Here is the dilemma for Yoshitoshi; his sympathies all lay with the rebels, whom he habitually pictured in the guise of Japanese heroes, and yet he more than any other artist of his generation adopted European, modern, styles and techniques in his work. In this print the disposition and the drawing of the figure all borrow from western realism, as does the perspective in the bottom left which serves to open up the space. Makiko is however the wife of one of the leading and most radical traditionalists of the counter revolution - Ohashi Totsuan was extremist in his exhortations to resist the opening of Japan to western ideas.
Totsuan was a confucian and sinophile who published a philosophical and political tract called Brief Words on Driving away Evil. In it he condemned even western map-making as blasphemous…
Followers of Western learning call themselves natural philosophers, shamelessly saying that the west knows the laws of the universe… true disciples of Confucius should raise their banner and destroy these false scholars, that they may get their just reward from the spirtits of former scholars dwelling in heaven.
Here is that man’s loyal wife, drawn in western style. It remains a very fine print from a rare series. Colour, condition and impression are all fine.
Published by Kobayashi Tetsujiro.