Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) Personalities of Recent Times: Okatsu of the Obana Clan, Concubine to an Officer, 1887. Oban.
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Yoshitoshi was the last great innovator of ukiyo-e prints. An apprentice of Kuniyoshi, he revived the art form with an emphasis on realism and acknowledged influences from newly imported western art. He both embraced the new culture of the Meiji period and at the same time was a passionate defender of traditional Japanese culture. His views on women are not known, although the treatment of his own wife left much to be desired - sending her out to prostitute herself in order to support his work. He pictures women in the same tradition as Kuniyoshi, strong and independent with great self awareness and self confidence. His drawing style becomes increasingly western even though his regret at the lost values of the shogunate seemed to increase with age.
In this print from a latish series, Yoshitoshi pictures the woman Okatsu. Okatsu is a ‘personality’ from history and also appeared in various kabuki dramas. She is usually shown playing a large stringed instrument, the koto. She most famously appears in the play Terutora Haizen, in which she accompanies her mother-in-law on a faintly comical but disastrous diplomatic mission to a rival daimyo. Her mother-in-law’s intransigence leads to a diplomatic crisis and her near death. Okatsu intervenes, placing herself between her and the sword-wielding daimyo, using the koto for protection. Mollified, her opponent allows the two women safe passage.
yoshitoshi.net describes the series thus:
Yoshitoshi produced these prints in the 1880s as furoku, or supplements, to certain issues of the Yamato Newspaper. These prints were distributed to subscribers. While employed by the newspapers, Yoshitoshi produced numerous other prints in other formats. These prints date from late in Yoshitoshi's career, during the time that he was producing his well-received masterpiece series, "One Hundred Aspects of the Moon" (1885-1892). At this time, Yoshitoshi was well established as a great artist, and his work was in high demand.
The series features illustrations of a wide variety of personalities from contemporary, and historical times. The portraits are considered exceptional in execution relative to other news nishiki-e.
A fine print and very good impression with strong colour, embossed cartouche and mica in the background. Trimmed to the image, a red ink mark top left, otherwise very good condition.
Signed: Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi hitsu.
Publisher: Yamato Shimbunsha.
22.5 x 33 cm.